Section IV: Social and Cultural Factors in Social Thinking and Interpersonal Behavior

Kashima outlines a theory of cultural dynamics that puts interpersonal processes as the engine of microgenesis of culture and regards the transmission of cultural information between people as a central mechanism of cultural evolution. In this view, most of the cultural transmission occurs as an unintended consequence of a joint activity, and culture acts as a tool for interpersonal coordination. Kashima also discusses what happens when this fluent interpersonal process is perturbed even by a minor culture inconsistent event.

Jost and Kay summarize their system justification theory, suggesting that people are motivated to defend, bolster, and justify aspects of the societal status quo at both conscious and nonconscious levels. Their work shows that system justification can operate as a nonconscious goal that is triggered by, among other things, feelings of threat or dependence on the social system. System justification is also linked to underlying epistemic, existential, and relational needs and serves a palliative function for its adherents. System justification also has important societal implications, motivating resistance to change in a variety of public policy domains.

Cooper’s chapter analyzes the consequences of thinking as an individual or thinking as a group member on interpersonal behavior. Does this difference matter in the way that information is processed and attitudes are changed? The chapter argues that the consequences of the two perspectives matter in important ways. Using the lens of vicarious dissonance, the chapter proposes that attitude- discrepant behavior creates different opportunities for attitude change, depending on the perspective that is accessible in memory. Identification, motivation, and the direction of change depend on the individual versus group perspective that the individual adopts.

Malle, Guglielmo, and Monroe analyze the social psychology of blame and suggest that moral cognition is firmly grounded in unique properties of human social cognition. An intriguing implication of their analysis is that people can be blamed for not only intentional but also unintentional behavior, if they can be expected to foresee and prevent an unwanted event. In addition, however, the authors highlight the role of interpersonal communication and negotiation for blame and its social consequences.

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