Are evaluations inferred directly from overt action?

Donald Brown, George Klemp, Howard Leventhal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The operation of a covert information processing mechanism was investigated in two experiments of the self-persuasion phenomena; i.e., making an inference about a stimulus on the basis of one's past behavior. Study I, using a modification of the shock paradigm employed by Bandler, Madaras, and Bem (1968), found that self persuasion occurred only when the implication of the subjects' behavior was consistent with external stimulus conditions. Thus, subjects rated a shock as more severe after choosing to make an escape response than after choosing to sustain exposure to the shock, but they did so only when the shock stimulus was severe. No inference was made from behavior when the shock was weak. In the second study subjects compared and evaluated the equality of pairs of weights. The subject was asked to make a forced-choice response, the second, or comparison weight, being judged heavier or lighter than the first, or standard weight. The forced-choice response was made at different times after lifting the weights and a final judgment of lighter, equal, or heavier was made at different times following the forced-choice reaction. It was hypothesized that the effects of the forced-choice response upon the final judgment of equal pairs of weights would depend upon the proximity of the forced-choice reaction to the lifting and comparison of the weights, and the time between the forced-choice response and the final judgment. The data support the hypotheses, and a simple stage model is presented of the internal comparison process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-126
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1975

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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