Self-perception theory

Self-perception theory is an account of attitude change developed by psychologist Daryl Bem. It asserts that we develop our attitudes by observing our own behavior and concluding what attitudes must have caused them.

elf-perception vs. cognitive dissonance

Self-perception theory differs from cognitive dissonance theory in that it does not hold that people experience a "negative drive state" called "dissonance" which they seek to relieve. Instead, people simply "infer" their attitudes from their own behavior in the same way that an outside observer might. Self-perception theory is a special case of attribution theory.

Bem ran his own version of Festinger and Carlsmith's famous 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. Bem argued that the subjects did not judge the man's attitude in terms of cognitive dissonance phenomena, and that therefore any attitude change the man might have had in that situation was the result of the subject's own self-perception.

Whether cognitive dissonance or self-perception is a more useful theory is a topic of considerable controversy and a large body of literature, with no clear winner. There are some circumstances where either theory is preferred, but it is traditional to use the terminology of cognitive dissonance theory by default.

Uses of the concept

An awareness of the characteristics that constitute one's self-knowledge.

Cooley (1904- ) made a looking glass model which was comprised of three components:

# How we think we appear to others
# How we think they evaluate that appearance
# The resulting shame or pride we feel In philosophy ‘Self-Knowledge’ is commonly used to refer the knowledge of one’s particular mental states, including one’s beliefs, desires, and sensations. Often it is used to refer to knowledge about a persisting self -- its ontological nature, identity conditions, or character traits. Self-perception, in short, is how we as individuals come to understand ourselves.

Self-perception is part of Marie Jahoda's theory of Ideal mental health


* Bem, D. J. (1967). "Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance phenomena". "Psychological Review", 74, 183–200.
* Bem, D. J. (1972). "Self-perception theory". In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), "Advances in Experimental Social psychology", Vol. 6, 1-62. New York: Academic Press. [ Full text (PDF)] . [ Summary] .

ee also

* Social psychology (psychology)
* Overjustification effect
* Self-concept

External links

* [ self-perception theory]
* [ PositiveAttitudes.Com: positive self-perception; positiveself concept; positive self image]

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