Explain about impression formation with the concept of schema and prototypes.

5. Explain about impression formation with the concept of schema and prototypes.


In a classic study Luchins (1957) gave subjects a two paragraph description of
a boy named Jim. One paragraph Jim walking to school with others and
participating in a member of other activities. In short he was portrayed as an
extrovert. In the second paragraph, the activities described were similar but Jim
did them all alone, thus appearing introvert. Subjects were presented with the two
paragraphs, but the order was reversed according to condition. When asked to
form an overall impression of Jim subjects’ responses demonstrated a strong
primacy effect. Primacy effect refers to the condition in which early information
has a stronger impact than later information. If subject had read the extrovert
paragraph first, they found them considerably more extraverted than if they had
read the introvert paragraph first, and vice versa. More recent work confirms that
indeed early information is weighted more heavily than later information. This
holds true even when the later information is very salient and clearly contradicts
earlier information.
On the other hand recency effects, in which later information is given more
credence than early information, have been reliably produced under three sorts of
conditions. First, when people are asked specifically to make a second evaluation
following the presentation of new information, late information takes on more
importance than earlier information. Second, if there is a relatively large time span
between the presentation of new information and the initial exposure, recency
effects are likely to occur. Finally, later information is given heavier weight if the
task is one which people assume that practice might improve performance.


Schemas: Holding our Impressions Together

Given the diversity of people and settings that one encounters passing through
everyday life, we might suspect that people could easily become overwhelmed
with the sheer quantity of information relating to what others are like. To avoid
becoming overwhelmed, people need to organise their impressions of others. The
way that they are able to do this is through the production of schemas. Schemas
are organised bodies of information stored in memory. The information in a schema
provides a representation of the way in which social world operates as well as
allowing us to categorise and interpret new information related to the schema.
We all hold schemas relating to everyday objects in our environment. We might,
for instance, hold a schema for automobiles –we have an idea of what they look
like, how they are used, what they can do for us and how to differentiate them
from other vehicles such as buses and horse and buggy. More importantly, from
a social psychological point of view we hold a schema for particular people (one’s
mother, girlfriend, boyfriend, brother, or sister) and of classes of people playing
a given role (mail carriers, teachers, or librarians). Each of these schemas provides
a way of organising behaviour into meaningful wholes.



The personality types that we derive in the case of person perception are organised
into schemas known as prototypes. Prototypes are schemas that organise a
group of personality traits into a meaningful personality type. For example, Nancy
cantor and walter Mischel (1979) suggest a frequently held prototype concerns
a person labeled on a general level as committed.
At the most specific level called the subordinate level— the prototype consists of
different types of committed individuals for example monks, nuns and activists. At
the middle level of specificity, there are basic classes of individuals: the religious
devotee or social activist. The subordinate and middle levels of specificity are
subsumed under the broader super ordinate level which encompasses the prototype
as a whole.


Leave a Reply