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This is a social psychological theory that accounts for attitude formation. Self-perception theory asserts, “people deduce their own internal states such as attitudes and emotions through the same process by which they deduce the internal states and dispositions of others” (Laird, 183). It implies that whenever people explain the behavior of others, they can assume the attitudes, beliefs, and other essential internal characteristics. They instead concentrate in observing other’s behavior and external factors that either decrease or increase the observed act. In doing so, people can deduce their own internal states of self-views from the information they gain by their own actions.
The self-perception theory comes from the concept of attitude which is a process of social influence. This is based on the fact that the conventional wisdom and behavior that people inhibit is influenced by the attitude they depict of other people’s behavior. Such examples ultimately determine the behavior targeted people. However, self-perception is one of several persuasive techniques illustrated in the text. It contradicts the cognitive dissonance theory that suggests that people have inner feelings that holds their attitudes and beliefs in harmony. Accordingly, people cannot be influenced by external factors such as observing other people’s behavior. By this, it implies that involving a conflicting attitude, belief, or behavior can produce a feeling of discomfort that leads to alteration of attitudes, beliefs or behavior in order to reduce discomfort and restore the balance. In this regard, self-perception theory can best be understood from the feeling of discomfort of dissonance and the own state that causes it to individual’s own behavior and attitude.
Recently, I went shopping to a nearby supermarket and found out that the supermarket had introduced another product, brown bread, whose color was similar to the normal brown bread, but differed in content. Since this was a new product, the supermarket decided to position its visitors next to the shelves where the product was being displayed in order to educate customers on the new product and persuade them to buy it. Corresponding to the self-perception theory, when a certain man was asked whether he would like to buy the newly introduced brown bread that was packed same as the normal ones the man replied, “I must like it because I am always eating it”. It means that the answer of the whole family would be the same. This implies that, just like the man, his wife and children have a poor introspection guide because their internal states are weak and ambiguous. As a result, they are displayed in the same position as an outside observer who normally relies on the external behavior in interpreting the man’s internal states.
From this incident, self-perception theory seems to be a special case of attribution theory. It implies that the supermarket must have enjoyed persuading its visitors to buy new product. This is because he did not have to judge the man’s attitude towards the newly introduced brown bread in terms of his cognitive dissonance. This is based on the fact that any change in attitude towards the product that the man might have developed in the situation was only out of the man’s own self-perception. In this case, self-perception theory is a mental imaging of oneself that helps us to understand that the attitudes and personalities we develop are based on how we think we can act. For that reason we are able to develop our behaviors by observing our own internal cues that would help us in interacting with other people.