Self-perception theory (SPT) is an account of attitude change developed by psychologist Daryl Bem. It asserts that people develop their attitudes by observing their behavior and concluding what attitudes must have caused them. The theory is counterintuitive in nature, as the conventional wisdom is that attitudes come prior to behaviors. Furthermore, the theory suggests that a person induces attitudes without accessing internal cognition and mood states. The person reasons their own overt behaviors rationally in the same way they attempt to explain others behaviors.
Original experiment on self-perception theory:- In an attempt to decide whether individuals induce their attitudes as observers without accessing their internal states, Bem used interpersonal simulations, in which an “observer-participant” is given a detailed description of one condition of a cognitive dissonance experiment. Subjects listened to a tape of a man enthusiastically describing a tedious peg-turning task. Some subjects were told that the man had been paid $20 for his testimonial and another group was told that he was paid $1.
Those in the latter condition thought that the man must have enjoyed the task more than those in the $20 condition. The results obtained were similar to the original Festinger-Carlsmith experiment. Because the observers, who did not have access to the actors’ internal cognition and mood states, were able to infer the true attitude of the actors, it is possible that the actors themselves also arrive at their attitudes by observing their own behavior. Note that this indicates how changing people’s attitudes happen only when two factors are present: * They are aroused, feeling the discomfort of dissonance.
They attribute the cause of this to their own behaviors and attitudes. Another study on self-perception theory:- Bem used a series of employed self-perception theory to try to reduce anxiety in hetero socially anxious or shy college students. The study conducted by an interaction among members of the opposite sex in order to overcome their shyness by attributing their successful outcomes to themselves and their own behaviour. The results indicate that the treatment is highly effective for both sexes. Also, the effects are fairly permanent and subjects find it enjoyable.
Furthermore, the treatment is not a result of the expectancy-of-treatment outcome. Further evidence:- There are numerous studies conducted by psychologists that support the self-perception theory, demonstrating that emotions do follow behaviors. For example, it is found that corresponding emotions (including liking, disliking, happiness, anger, etc. ) were reported following from their overt behaviors, which had been manipulated by the experimenters. These behaviors included making different facial expressions, gazes and postures.
In the end of the experiment, subjects inferred and reported their affections and attitudes from their practiced behaviors despite the fact that they were told previously to act that way. These findings are consistent with the James-Lange theory of emotion. Evidence for the self-perception theory has also been seen in real life situations. After teenagers participated in repeated and sustained volunteering services, their attitudes were demonstrated to have shifted to be more caring and considerate towards others.
Theories:- One useful application of the self-perception theory is in changing attitude, both therapeutically and in terms of persuasion. Psychological therapy:- Firstly, for therapies, self-perception theory holds a different view of psychological problems from the traditional perspectives which suggest that those problems come from the inner part of the clients. Instead, self-perception theory perspective suggests that people derive their inner feelings or abilities from their external behaviors.
If those behaviors are maladjusted ones, people will attribute those maladjustments to their poor adapting abilities and thus suffer from the corresponding psychological problems. Thus, this concept can be used to treat clients with psychological problems that resulted from maladjustments by guiding them to first change their behavior and later dealing with the ‘problems’. One of the most famous therapies making use of this concept is therapy for ‘Hetero social Anxiety’. In this case, the assumption is that an individual perceives that he or she has poor social skills because he/she has no dates.
Experiments showed that males with hetero social anxiety perceived less anxiety with females after several sessions of therapy in which they engaged in a 12-minute, purposefully biased dyadic social interactions with a separate females. From these apparently successful interactions, the males inferred that their hetero social anxiety was reduced. This effect is shown to be quite long-lasting as the reduction in perceived hetero social anxiety resulted in a significantly greater number of dates among subjects 6 months later. Disproof of Self-Perception Theory?
There was a time when it was debated whether or not dissonance or self perception was the valid mechanism behind attitude change. The chief difficulty was in finding an experiment where the two flexible theories would make distinctly different predictions. Some prominent social psychologists such as Anthony Greenwald thought it would be impossible to distinguish between the two theories. In 1974, Zanna and Cooper conducted an experiment in which individuals were made to write a counter-attitudinal essay. They were divided into either a low choice or a high choice condition.
They were also given a placebo; they were told the placebo would induce either tension, relaxation, or exert no effect. Under low choice, all participants exhibited no attitude change, which would be predicted by both cognitive dissonance theory and self-perception theory. Interestingly, under high choice, participants who were told the placebo would produce tension exhibited no attitude change, and participants who were told the placebo would produce relaxation demonstrated larger attitude change. These results are not explainable by self-perception theory as arousal should have nothing o do with the mechanism underlying attitude change. Cognitive dissonance theory, however, was readily able to explain these results: if the participants could attribute their state of unpleasant arousal to the placebo, they wouldn’t have to alter their attitude. Thus, for a period of time, it seemed the debate between self-perception theory and cognitive dissonance had ended. Foot-in-the-door technique:- Secondly, self-perception theory is an underlying mechanism for the effectiveness of many marketing or persuasive techniques.
One typical example is the foot-in-the-door technique, which is a widely-used marketing technique for persuading target customers to buy products. The basic premise of this technique is that, once a person complies with a small request (e. g. filling in a short questionnaire), he/she will be more likely to comply with a more substantial request which is related to the original request (e. g. buying the related product). The idea is that the initial commitment on the small request will change one’s self image, therefore giving reasons for agreeing with the subsequent, larger request.
It is because people observe their own behaviors (paying attention to and complying with the initial request) and the context in which they behave (no obvious incentive to do so), and thus infer they must have a preference for those products. Challenges and criticisms:- The self-perception theory was initially proposed as an alternative to explain the experimental findings of the cognitive dissonance theory, and there were debates as to whether people experience attitude changes as an effort to reduce dissonance or as a result of self-perception processes.
Basing on the fact that the self-perception theory differs from the cognitive dissonance theory in that it does not hold that people experience a “negative drive state” called “dissonance” which they seek to relieve, the following experiment was carried out to compare the two theories under different conditions. An early study on cognitive dissonance theory shows that people indeed experience arousal when their behavior is inconsistent with their previous attitude. Waterman designed an experiment in which participants were asked to write an essay arguing against the position they greed. Then they were asked immediately to perform a simple task and a difficult task and their performance in both tasks were assessed. It was found that they performed better in the simple task and worse in the difficult task, compared to those who had just written an essay corresponding to their true attitude. As indicated by social facilitation, enhanced performance in simple tasks and worsened performance in difficult tasks shows that arousal is produced by people when their behavior is inconsistent with their attitude.
Therefore, the cognitive dissonance theory is evident in this case. Decision making:- Decision making can be regarded as the mental processes (cognitive process) resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice. Logical decision making is an important part of all science-based professions, where specialists apply their knowledge in a given area to making informed decisions.
For example, medical decision making often involves making a diagnosis and selecting an appropriate treatment. Some research using naturalistic methods shows, however, that in situations with higher time pressure, higher stakes, or increased ambiguities, experts use intuitive decision making rather than structured approaches, following a recognition primed decision approach to fit a set of indicators into the expert’s experience and immediately arrive at a satisfactory course of action without weighing alternatives.
Recent robust decision efforts have formally integrated uncertainty into the decision making process. However, Decision Analysis, recognized and included uncertainties with a structured and rationally justifiable method of decision making since its conception in 1964. Human performance in decision terms has not been the subject of active research from several perspectives.
From a psychological perspective, it is necessary to examine individual decisions in the context of a set of needs, preferences an individual has and values they seek. From a cognitive perspective, the decision making process must be regarded as a continuous process integrated in the interaction with the environment. From a normative perspective, the analysis of individual decisions is concerned with the logic of decision making and rationality and the invariant choice it leads to.
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