self-perception theory

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A theory according to which people infer their own attitudes (1), opinions, and other internal states partly by observing their overt behaviour and the circumstances in which that behaviour occurs. A canonical example is of a man who is asked whether he likes brown bread and who replies, ‘I must like it; I’m always eating it.' According to the theory, introspection is a poor guide to one's internal states, because internal cues are weak and ambiguous, and a person is therefore in essentially the same position as an outside observer, who necessarily relies on outward behaviour in interpreting another's internal states. The theory has been used to provide an alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance effects. It was introduced in two influential articles by the US psychologist Daryl J. Bem (born 1938) in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 1965 and in Psychological Review in 1967. It is sometimes regarded as a behaviourist type of attribution theory.

Subjects: Psychology.

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