Social Comprehension and Judgment: The Role of Situation Models, Narratives, and Implicit Theories

Social Comprehension and Judgment: The Role of Situation Models, Narratives, and Implicit Theories

Social Comprehension and Judgment: The Role of Situation Models, Narratives, and Implicit Theories

Social Comprehension and Judgment: The Role of Situation Models, Narratives, and Implicit Theories


Written by one of the foremost authorities in social cognition, Social Comprehension and Judgment examines how people process information encountered in their everyday lives. In the book, Dr. Wyer proposes a new theory about the way in which information acquired in everyday life is comprehended and represented in memory, and how it is later used as a basis for judgments and decisions. A major emphasis throughout is on the construction and use of narrative representations of knowledge and the way that visual images influence the comprehension of these narratives and the judgments based on them. The role of affective reactions in this cognitive activity is also discussed.

Social Comprehension and Judgment is divided into three sections. Part I provides a conceptual overview by outlining the general theoretical framework focusing on assumptions about the storage and retrieval of information and reviews recent research on the impact of knowledge accessibility on judgments and decisions. Part II deals with the comprehension of information, and examines the role of these processes in impression formation, persuasion, and responses to humor. Part III describes the inferences that are based on information conveyed in social situations.

This book is ideal for advanced students and researchers interested in the areas of social cognition or social information processing.


Authors often become disenchanted with the books they have written almost as soon as they are published. Perhaps this is inevitable. Although a book reports the culmination of one's theoretical and empirical work at the time it goes to press, it nevertheless contains the seeds of discontent. That is, the author in writing the book becomes painfully aware of the limitations of his research and the conceptualization underlying it, and consequently is already motivated to move beyond the confines of this conceptualization by the time it appears in print.

At least, this has been true of me. A book I published in 1974, entitled Cognitive Organization and Change, provided a fairly rigorous analysis of cognitive consistency theories of the way beliefs and attitudes were organized in memory, individual and situational differences in the cognitive responses to new information, and the way in which different features of information were combined to form judgments. The book assumed that humans were analogous to computers, generating outputs based on operations that were specified in various “software” routines that were activated by the “user” (in the case of humans, the demands of the social environment).

By the time the book was published, however, I had already begun to appreciate the need for a more general conceptualization of mental representation. A second book (Social Inference and Attribution, with Don Carlston, published in 1979) proposed a rather complex associative network model of social memory that took into account the role of knowledge accessibility in judgments and decisions. In this book, we recognized the impact that script-like representations of events could have on social judgment. However, we did not explore this possibility with any degree of rigor. More generally, the cumbersome nature of the network representation, coupled with the fact that it provided little insight into how the information represented was actually used, convinced me of the futility of using this approach to account for many phenomena that were being identified in research on person impression formation and the use of judgmental heuristics.

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