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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Self-perception theory and credibility cueing : conceptual and empirical analyses Douglas, Ronald Lew


The theories of cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) and self-perception (Bern, 1965) are reviewed in terms of the "insufficient justification" and "observer replication" laboratory paradigms. The controversy generated by their competing explanatory claims was evaluated in three separate contexts: as debate, theory, and metatheory. In a debating context it was concluded that Ben got the better of the controversy by observing the input requirements of his theory and marshalling against his critics evidence generated by their own failure to do likewise. Analytical and epistemological errors committed by the dissonance theory advocates were major factors in this csnclusion. With respect to the more substantive context of theory-testing, it was concluded that Bern failed to establish the plausibility of the cognitive process postulated by the self-perception theory. A unique counter-instance was cited to demonstrate that self-perception is not a wholly viable alternative analysis of cognitive dissonance phenomena. In addition, an examination of Bern's adherence to a functional analysis in conjunction with a simulation methodology raised doubts that such a strategy could deliver the desired information concerning plausibility of the self-perception process. When viewed at the level of metatheory, however, Bern was considered to have had a substantial influence upon the working commitments of a small community of his colleagues. This conclusion was derived from a metaphorical application of Kuhn's (1962) thesis concerning scientific revolutions to events in the recent history of Social Psychology. In this view, the self-perception theory is an historical marker which brings clearly into focus the transition of attitudinal research from a motivational-consistency "paradigm" to an information processing/attributional "paradigm". Three experiments are reported which make use of Bern's credibility cueing procedure to articulate the newer "paradigm". The first experiment provides support for a fundamental hypothesis derived from the self-perception theory. Subjects' recall of a task was systematically influenced by external discriminative stimuli for self-credibility when internal memory cues were relatively weak, but net when such cues were relatively strong. The use of a statistic which takes into account subjects' differential guessing strategies increased confidence in the self-perception interpretation of these results. The second experiment attempted to extend the credibility cueing effect beyond the traditional impersonal cueing situation to one involving interpersonal discriminative stimuli for self-credibility. Although procedural insights rendered the results inconclusive, a serendipitous observation was made. The results suggested a novel hypothesis that different stimulus persons could have differential effects on subjects' self-credibility. A third experiment provided support for this hypothesis. When one live interviewer was manipulated as a discriminative stimulus for self-credibility, subjects' recall of a task was systematically influenced in accord with self-perception predictions. These effects did net occur in the presence of a second live interviewer. Speculation was advanced concerning the psychological basis for differential credibility cueing properties of parties to social interactions with particular reference to the credibility cueing potential of police interrogations.

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