Social Judgment – Perception of People and Social Happenings

     Social judgment is how we perceive people, how we form impressions about them and how we think about social things. Social psychology is concerned with how we make these judgments, how accurate they are, and what the consequences of these judgments are. How we form first impressions and respond to people depends on how we judge them. Sometimes we judge people incorrectly. Misjudgments are the basis of prejudice and discrimination.

     There are certain stimuli that help us in our judgments of other people. Some stimuli are closely related to the person and are any feature of a person that we can observe directly. These include the face and body, movements of the face and body, clothing and perceptions, words people use, decisions or actions people make, and communications from others about a person. The other type of stimulus that people use to make judgments are more distant stimulus – internal states or things that we cannot directly see but must infer from other information. These would include personality, mood, intelligence, education, sincerity, trustworthiness and many more. Most of us learn to control or manipulate many of the cues we show to others in order to hide our internal state. Thus, we say “Fine thanks.” when asked “How are you?” even when we are sometimes far from fine.

     There are two concepts that are involved in forming impressions – filtering and inference. With respect to filtering, people tend to ignore much of what they see. With inference, people tend to go beyond the evidence in front of them and complete the picture that they filtered or did not see. Filtering prevents us from being overwhelmed by too much information and inference allows us to complete pictures or stories with incomplete information. However, they also lead us to make errors of judgment. Prejudice and discrimination are normally associated with errors of judgment.

Related Links

Social Psychology
Self Perception
False Consensus & Uniqueness
Self Esteem
Non-Verbal Communications