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What is Social Perception?
Social perception is the process of forming impressions of individuals. The resulting impressions that we form are based off of information available in the environment, our previous attitudes about relevant stimuli, and our current mood. Humans tend to operate under certain biases when forming impression of other individuals. For example, we are more like to perceive a beautiful person as being good (i.e. possessing desirable personality traits such as kindness, sociability, intelligence) than less attractive people. This particular bias is often called the halo effect.
Another perception bias we tend to make is called in-group bias or in-group favoritism. In other words, we tend to favor members of our in-group over those we perceive as out-group members (e.g. (Allen & Wilder, 1975); (Billig & Tajfel, 1973); (Brewer, 1979); (Tajfel, 1970); (Wilder, 1981)). For example, when we are judging a particular Democratic candidate against a Republican politician, all other things being equal, we tend to view the Democrat politician more positively and treat that person more favorably than a similar Republican politician if we are Democrats ourselves. Under certain circumstances, however, we are likely to show bias against in-group members. That is when the in-group member behaves negatively; in particular, if he/she transgresses against a group norm. Theorists believe this is linked to our sense of social identity. When someone in my group does something good, then I feel good about myself as well. However, when someone in my group does something bad, I may feel bad (possibly because I know that other people are likely to judge me based on the behavior of my group members). So, under certain circumstances, I may treat or evaluate an offending in-group member more negatively than a similarly negative out-group member. This phenomenon is commonly known in psychology as the black sheep effect (e.g. (Marques, Yzerbyt, & Leyens, 1988); (Marques, Abrams, & Serodio, 2001); (Marques, Robalo, & Rocha, 1992); (Marques & Yzerbyt, 1988); (Matthews & Dietz-Uhler, 1998); (Coull et al, 2001)).
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