• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

'Discuss top-down and bottom-up processing in relation to social cognitive processes, with reference to empirical studies'.

Extracts from this document...


'Discuss top-down and bottom-up processing in relation to social cognitive processes, with reference to empirical studies'. Social cognition is concerned with the mental representations and processes involved in social judgements and social behaviour. Bottom-up and top-down processing will be discussed in relation to the social cognitive processes; perception, encoding and storage, reference will be made to the role of schemas, heuristics and the effect of priming. Top-down explanations of processing rely on previous experiences and expectations, and highlight the importance of the context. In contrast, bottom-up explanations suggest social judgements and behaviours are directly influenced by sensory imput (Hogg & Vaughn, 1998). The basic foundations of top-down and bottom-up processing have been adopted by many theorists and have been empirically demonstrated in the areas of; logical reasoning, person perception, person memory, judgement tendencies and linguistic communication. Research into the two processing modes has concentrated on three major components; how people process in quick and effortless fashion (top-down processing), how they process when willing and able to engage in extensive thought (bottom-up processing), and finally, what conditions encourage each type of processing. Cognitive processes are staged. Observed stimulus events must be perceived, then encoded and stored. The encoding and interpretation of the perception is heavily influenced by prior knowledge stored in memory (Fielder & Bless, 2001). Newly encoded perceptions are stored in memory, potentially affecting the assessment of future events (Augoustinos & Walker, 1995). The combination of newly encoded input along with old knowledge in memory provides the basis for further processing, resulting in inferences and judgements (Srull, 1983). Cosmides (1989, cited in Fiedler & Bless, 2001) approach to logical reasoning illustrates the importance of the social component in human thinking/intelligence. ...read more.


In many studies (Srull & Wyer, 1979, cited in Bargh, 1996; Hansen & Hansen, 1988, cited in Lord, 1997) of construct accessibility and priming, subsequent thoughts are found to be closely assimilated with previously activated thoughts. Srull and Wyer (1979, cited in Bargh, 1996) showed that when primed with hostile words in a word comprehension test, participants viewed 'Donalds' behaviour to be more hostile (than assertive) compared with participants primed with neutral words. Stack, Schwarz, Bless, Kubler & Wanke (1993, cited in Hogg & Vaughn, 1998) found that when people are made aware of the prime, they over-adjust away from their initial reaction, displaying contrast rather than assimilation. When circumstances prime an extreme version of a trait construct, the result is a rebound or contrast effect. Herr (1986) demonstrated this by repeating Srull & Wyer's (1979, cited in Bargh, 1996) study. This time participants were primed with the names; Hitler and Charles Manson. These participants then judged 'Donalds' behaviour as assertive rather than hostile. This could be because by comparison to the anchor point (Hitler, Charles Manson) 'Donalds' behaviour was rather benign. Pryor and Ostrom (1981, cited in Hogg & Vaughn, 1998) showed that person perception information can be stored in a number of ways. People can be clustered under attributes or groups or by their individual traits, behaviours or appearances. Social memory can therefore be organised by person or by group. Sedikides and Ostrom (1988, cited in Hogg & Vaughn, 1998) suggest the preferred mode of organisation is by person, which produces more accurate, easily recalled memories. Organisation by person is more likely to occur when it concerns real people, whom we expect to interact with at a later time (Srull, 1983). ...read more.


A danger of top-down processing is illusory correlation. An overestimation of the relationship between two distinct variables can strengthen a stereotype, making it highly resistant to change. Fielder, Hemmeter and Hoffman (1984, cited in Fiedler & Bless, 2001) demonstrated an illusory correlation in an experiment where students were erroneously reported to have proposed more liberal educational attitudes than conservative clerks. Fiedler & Bless (2001) suggest Fielder et als (1984) results along with similar findings (Hamilton and Rose, 1980 cited in Fiedler & Bless, 2001) show the biased frequency judgements were correlated with a corresponding recall bias. They also discuss that the results show the participants perception and comprehension of the attitude statements. Participants have relied on past experience and expectations to draw conclusions, overlooking the actual stimuli, relying heavily on top-down processing. Mental capacity, motivation and exposure are all factors which have been empirically tested and shown to influence which processing strategy will be implemented (either bottom-up or top-down). Even when thoughtful Bottom-up processing is engaged, the effects of prior knowledge are still very prominent and there effect cannot be ignored. In our everyday lives, our experiences coupled with recently learnt information is nearly always expected to benefit us in the future, it can therefore be argued that our social experiences have taught us to relay heavily on top-down processing. The central finding of the empirical studies discussed here has been that social behaviour can be triggered by features of the environment. Behavioural responses can occur in the absence of any conscious involvement or intervention and the danger of this is increased stereotyping which can result in prejudices. The realisation that cognition is very much embedded within a social system rather than merely the individual brain places social psychology at the very core of cognitive sciences. C624 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Cognitive Psychology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Cognitive Psychology essays

  1. Cognitive Psychology - The processes involved in attention.

    However, later work challenged this account of attention. For example, Allport, Antonis and Reynolds (1972), presented a passage of prose to one ear and a series of words to the other ear. The subjects task was to shadow the passage of prose. They found that recall of the words was very poor.

  2. An Experiment on Memory and the Effect of Different Levels of Processing.

    It is for this reason that it is necessary to attempt to control these variables as much as possible in order to reduce any outside influences that could affect the result. For this study, a possible extraneous variable is distraction caused by noise, activity or otherwise which could break concentration and reduce the quantity of words that are remembered.

  1. Why does Thatcher Illusion arise and what can it tell us about face processing?

    It can be explained that we are only able to process individual features in inverted images since it is unusual for us to perceive inverted faces. Therefore, the right-side up eyes and mouth in the thatcherized image looks actually more familiar and people typically think that both inverted pictures are usual.

  2. Free essay

    Compare and contrast the methods used for research in Memory and Language Processes

    The design of a research project contains very important factors, which will have an affect on the outcome of the research; such as the size of the sample, the way the participants are selected, the degree they can represent the population, the given environment, the circumstances and the way the data is gathered.

  1. Memory loss- Outline and discuss the principle features of organic amnesia.

    They can quite easily have a conversation about events that may have occurred early in their life, whilst concealing their memory deficit. It may be that they develop some set responses to questions that they know they will be regularly asked, or some general conversation phrases that they can use

  2. What have studies of people with brain damage injury and/or neuroimaging studies told us ...

    are auditory association areas. PET studies have shown us that these areas in both hemispheres are activated by speech and also non-speech sounds. This suggests that this area is not necessarily important for specialized linguistic processes as it is also activated by non-speech sounds e.g.

  1. Historical and cultural conditions that gave rise to the cognitive perspective.

    other voices and sounds There are two things which influence our perception: i)the influence of past-experience ii)the influence of expectations We have also three Gestalt principles of perception. Gestalt menas organized whole. -perceptual experience is the result of active synthesis -emphasis on the active processes used by the mind -the

  2. Critically evaluate the contribution that patient case studies have made, not only to our ...

    accounts were taken after of his behavioural change which led neurologists to believe he had injured the part of the brain used for socially accepted behaviour. This hypothesis could not have been investigated at that time due to the lack of knowledge however, 150 years later patient EVR began exhibiting the same behaviour after brain surgery to remove a tumour.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work