Person models in social perception

This project investigates the sources of information that people make use of during social perception and how they are integrated. In other words, if action observation is predictive and under top-down control, where do these predictions come from?

One source of information is the knowledge we have about the other individual. Humans store a vast amount of information about other's behaviour, reaching from their short-term goals in a given situation to long-term behaviour tendencies, for example, that our kid likes to pick his nose, the political and musical preferences of our friends, or more abstract traits (e.g., generosity) that predict their behaviour, as well as knowledge about their group and social role or what humans, generally, are like. While social psychology has studied how such knowledge affects higher-level person evaluations and memory, this project tests whether it also affects low-level action perception.

As described above, attributing short-term goals to others affects how their behaviour is perceived, inducing subtle visual illusions. For example, seeing someone state that they want an object, changes subsequent perception of their action, such that the hands appear closer to this object than it really is (Hudson et al., 2017; 2017), compared to when they just heard the person saying that they don't want it. In recent work (Hudson et al., 2017), we have now established that these predictions follow the knowledge we have about the person: we make use of them more if the person - in previous encounters - usually did what they said, compared to when they were more unreliable.

Such predictions have profound consequences for further processing, affecting both action identification and own action execution. For example, people identify actions of others' more quickly if these actions are typical for that person in the given situation, compared to an action that would be typically carried out by someone else (Schenke, Wyer & Bach, 2017), even when participants cannot readily verbalise these behaviour tendencies. Similarly, simple seeing a face look repeatedly at one type of object (e.g. foods) but not at others (drinks) guides our own attention to these objects when this face is seen again, as if we already anticipate the action of this individual (Joyce et al., 2015). These person-based action predictions can even affect one's own behaviour: seeing people we associate with particular actions - such as famous tennis or football players - affects how we carry out these actions, suggesting a direct route from person model to action anticipation (Bach & Tipper, 2007; Tipper & Bach, 2011).

But, when having some insight about another person's goals and beliefs, how do people work out how these mental states will will manifest as in a given situation? Our current model) assumes that situation models provide the necessary intermediate step.

 

Project publications

Bach, P.  & Schenke, K. (2017). Predictive social perception: towards a unifying framework from action observation to person knowledge. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. Publisher – PDF

Schenke, K. C., Wyer, N. A., & Bach, P. (2016). The Things You Do: Internal Models of Others’ Expected Behaviour Guide Action Observation. PLoS One, 11(7), e0158910. Publisher – PDF – Data

Joyce, K., Schenke, K., Bayliss, A. & Bach, P. (2015). Looking ahead: Anticipatory cuing of attention to objects others will look at. Cognitive Neuroscience, 1-8Publisher – PDF – Data

Tipper, S.P. & Bach, P. (2011). The face inhibition effect: Social contrast or motor competition? Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 23(1), 45-51. PDF

Tipper, S.P. & Bach, P. (2008). Your own actions influence how you perceive other persons: a misattribution of action appraisals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 44, (4), 1082-1090. PDF
-- featured in BPS's research digest newsletter.

Bach, P. & Tipper, S.P. (2007). Implicit action encoding influences personal-trait judgments. Cognition, 102, 151-178. PDF

Bach, P. & Tipper, S.P. (2006). Bend it like Beckham: embodying the motor skills of famous athletes. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59(12), 2033-2039. PDF
-- featured in BPS research digest newsletter, CNETMetro, etc.