Making sense of people: Coherence mechanisms

In [Book Chapter] (1997)
When trying to make sense of other people and ourselves, we may rely on several different kinds of cognitive processes. First, we form impressions of other people by integrating information contained in concepts that represent their traits, their behaviors, our stereotypes of the social groups they belong to, and any other information about them that seems relevant. For example, your impression of an acquaintance may be a composite of personality traits (e.g., friendly, independent), behaviors (e.g., told a joke, donated money to the food bank), and social stereotypes (e.g., woman, doctor, Chinese). Second, we understand other people by means of causal attributions in which we form and evaluate hypotheses that explain their behavior. To explain why someone is abrupt on one occasion, you may hypothesize that this person is impatient or that he or she is under pressure from a work deadline. You believe the hypothesis that provides the best available explanation of the person's behavior. A third means of making sense of people is analogy: You can understand people through their similarity to other people or to yourself. For example, you may understand the stresses that your friend is experiencing by remembering an occasion when you yourself experienced similar stresses. This will allow you to predict your friend's likely feelings and behavior.
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