Cognitive miser

Cognitive miser is a social psychology theory that suggests that humans, valuing their mental processing resources, find different ways to save time and effort when negotiating the social world. The term cognitive miser was first used by Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor in Social Cognition (1991).[1]

Background

Before Fiske and Taylor's theory of the cognitive miser, the predominant paradigm of social cognition within social psychology was that of the naive scientist. First proposed in 1958 by Fritz Heider in The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations,[2] the theory holds that humans think and act with rationality whilst engaging in detailed and nuanced thought processes for both complex and everyday actions. In this way, humans behave like scientists, albeit naive ones, analyzing the world around them. Applying this framework to human thought processes, naive scientists seek the consistency and stability that comes from 1) coherent view of the world and 2) need for environmental control.[3]

Departing from Heider's hypothesis and attribution theory, Fiske and Taylor hypothesized that humans, instead of acting like scientists, rationally weighing costs and benefits, testing hypothesis, and updating beliefs based upon results of the experiments that are everyday actions, think economically. That is to say that humans choose certain activities on which to expend mental resources through deep analysis (as naive scientists) but, by and large, act as cognitive misers using mental short cuts (heuristics) to make assessments and decisions. Fiske and Taylor argue that acting as cognitive misers is rational due to the sheer volume and intensity of information and stimuli humans take in.

Key Assumptions of the Cognitive Miser Theory

The first key assumption of this theory is, people do not use all available information to make decisions or come to conclusions about issues, including new technologies or scientific discoveries.[1] Instead people rely on heuristics and cognitive shortcuts such as religious beliefs, media portrayals, and morals in order to form judgments and opinions about issues that they have little knowledge about.[4]

The second key assumption in the cognitive miser theory is that it describes overall social patterns. For the majority of the general public the cognitive miser theory can be used because many people have low information levels that require cognitive shortcuts to be made to make decisions on complex topics.The cognitive miser model may not be true for audiences that are heavily interested in the issue at hand. These people gain as much information as possible before making an opinion or decision on a topic.[1][4]

Updates and later research

A later revision by Fiske and Taylor (1991) suggested that motivated tacticians should replace the idea of the cognitive miser model. This update stated that people are sometimes motivated and are fully engaged thinkers who have multiple cognitive strategies available and chooses among them based on goals, motives, and needs.[1]

In 2004, Dietram A. Scheufele and Bruce V. Lewenstein conducted a study on knowledge and attitudes toward nanotechnology that shows how people make decisions or come to conclusions about developing technology. The results of the study found the cognitive miser model was still applicable in today’s society even after being conceptualized two decades earlier in Fiske and Taylor’s book Social Cognition.[4]

See also

References

  • Fiske, S.T. (1992). Thinking is for doing: Portraits of social cognition from Daguerrotypes to Laserphoto. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 877-839.
Help improve this article
Sourced from World Heritage Encyclopedia™ licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Help to improve this article, make contributions at the Citational Source
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.