Humans are unique in their ability to evaluate, judge, and criticize their thoughts and actions. Objective self- awareness theory (Duval &Wicklund, 1972;Silvia &Duval, 2001), a central theory in the study of self and identity, examines how focusing attention on the self affects self-evaluation. Self-focused attention leads to evaluating the self against standards and goals;if the self falls short, as it often does, then people may try harder to meet their goals or give up and withdraw. The proposed experiments examine the nature of self- evaluation and self-regulation, with an emphasis on how automatic, nonconscious self-evaluation processes affect how people mobilize and withdraw effort. These experiments will (1) examine-using physiological, cognitive, and self-report measures-how self-evaluation processes influence the exertion and withdrawal of effort during the pursuit of goals;(2) examine nonconscious processes that affect self-focused attention, the importance of goals, and expectations of success;(3) evaluate competing predictions about how self- focused attention influences the course of self-regulation;and (4) illustrate fundamental similarities between conscious and nonconscious self-evaluation processes. Taken together, the experiments will illuminate how self-focused attention influences defensive and constructive responses to goals, challenges, and negative events.

Public Health Relevance

Chronic self-focused attention is a risk factor for many disorders, particularly mood and anxiety disorders, because it entails persistent scrutiny and judgment of the self (Ingram, 1990). These experiments will thus inform psychological disorders that involve self-criticism, particularly the automatic negative thoughts that occur in depression and the self-disparaging thoughts that occur in social phobia.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) (R15)
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Social Psychology, Personality and Interpersonal Processes Study Section (SPIP)
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Simmons, Janine M
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University of North Carolina Greensboro
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Silvia, Paul J; Mironovov√°, Zuzana; McHone, Ashley N et al. (2016) Do depressive symptoms ""blunt"" effort? An analysis of cardiac engagement and withdrawal for an increasingly difficult task. Biol Psychol 118:52-60
Silvia, Paul J; Kwapil, Thomas R; Walsh, Molly A et al. (2014) Planned missing-data designs in experience-sampling research: Monte Carlo simulations of efficient designs for assessing within-person constructs. Behav Res Methods 46:41-54
Silvia, Paul J; Jackson, Bryonna A; Sopko, Rachel S (2014) Does Baseline Heart Rate Variability Reflect Stable Positive Emotionality? Pers Individ Dif 70:183-187
Silvia, Paul J; Nusbaum, Emily C; Eddington, Kari M et al. (2014) Effort Deficits and Depression: The Influence of Anhedonic Depressive Symptoms on Cardiac Autonomic Activity During a Mental Challenge. Motiv Emot 38:779-789
Silvia, Paul J; Kelly, Casey S; Zibaie, Alireza et al. (2013) Trait self-focused attention increases sensitivity to nonconscious primes: evidence from effort-related cardiovascular reactivity. Int J Psychophysiol 88:143-8
Silvia, Paul J (2012) Mirrors, masks, and motivation: implicit and explicit self-focused attention influence effort-related cardiovascular reactivity. Biol Psychol 90:192-201
Silvia, Paul J; Jones, Hannah C; Kelly, Casey S et al. (2011) Trait self-focused attention, task difficulty, and effort-related cardiovascular reactivity. Int J Psychophysiol 79:335-40
Silvia, Paul J; Jones, Hannah C; Kelly, Casey S et al. (2011) Masked first name priming increases effort-related cardiovascular reactivity. Int J Psychophysiol 80:210-6