The proposed research will investigate the effects of self-reflection on attitudes and attitude-behavior consistency. Several previous studies have demonstrated that one type of reflection, analyzing the reasons for one's feelings, can reduce attitude-behavior consistency. Analyzing reasons appears to lead to a """"""""cognitivation"""""""" of attitudes, where thoughts and beliefs about the attitude object become salient. This reduces attitude-behavior consistency by (a) increasing the discrepancy between thoughts and beliefs about the attitude object (cognitions) and the feeling components of the attitude (affect) and (b) causing attitude reports to be based on cognitions, while behavior is more affectively-based. The proposed research will test further the cognitivation hypothesis, and explore the boundary conditions of the effects of analyzing reasons on attitude-behavior consistency. The first set of proposed studies will further investigate several of the variables hypothesized to mediate the effects of analyzing reasons, including the origins of the attitude (whether it is originally affectively- or cognitively-based), whether people are knowledgeable or unknowledgeable about the attitude object, and individual differences in the tendency to base attitudes on affect or cognitions. The second set of studies will investigate the boundary conditions of the effects of self-analysis, such as whether people analyze reasons for short or long periods of time. The third set of studies will investigate the conditions under which people are apt to reflect about their reasons in everyday life. The long-term objectives of the proposed research are to isolate the conditions under which it is beneficial or not to engage in self-reflection. The research should have important implications for (a) social scientific research in psychology and sociology, where there is substantial interest in predicting people's behavior from their verbal reports, and to (b) practice and theory in clinical psychology, where it is often assumed that self-reflection is exclusively a beneficial activity.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Mental Health Behavioral Sciences Research Review Committee (BSR)
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University of Virginia
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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Wilson, T D; Houston, C E; Etling, K M et al. (1996) A new look at anchoring effects: basic anchoring and its antecedents. J Exp Psychol Gen 125:387-402
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Wilson, T D; Brekke, N (1994) Mental contamination and mental correction: unwanted influences on judgments and evaluations. Psychol Bull 116:117-42
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Wilson, T D; Lisle, D J; Kraft, D et al. (1989) Preferences as expectation-driven inferences: effects of affective expectations on affective experience. J Pers Soc Psychol 56:519-30