Social Perception in the Modern Family

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Social perception is one of the many topics we learned about in class that is seen in the show Modern Family. Perception is a cognitive process that enables us to interpret and understand our surroundings. Social perception involves a four-stage information processing sequence. It includes selective attention/comprehension, encoding and simplification, storage and retention, and retrieval and response. All four stages are shown in the scene that involves Claire, Phil, Haley and Dylan. Haley brings over Dylan, who is a high school senior, to hang out in her room. Claire does not feel comfortable with Dylan even though she does not know anything about him. The way both parents handle the situation gives a good example of the social perception processing sequence.

The scene starts out with Claire approaching Dylan after he enters the home and she assumes he is up to no good since he is tall and a high school senior. The first stage of the sequence is selective attention/comprehension, which consists of salient and attention. Attention is being consciously aware of something or someone and salient is something that stands out from context. In the situation Claire as all of her attention on Dylan and the salient being that he is a “tall senior in high school”. Claire and Phil only focus on the part that he is a senior and this leads them to make negative assumptions about him. This leads to stage two which is encoding and simplification which includes stereotyping.

A stereotype is a belief about the characteristic of a group which may or may not be negative and may or may not be accurate. It also involves categorizing people into groups according to various criteria and inferring that all people within a category possess the same traits. Claire and Phil both stereotype against Dylan because he is a teenager and a high school senior. Phil does not talk to Dylan in a proper manner, calling him “homes” and “playa”. He assumes that Dylan does not speak proper...
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