Self-awareness and drive theory: Comparing internal standards and dominant responses


  • Dr. Stefan E. Hormuth

    Corresponding author
    1. Northwestern University
    • Psychologisches Institut, Universitat Heidelberg, Hauptstr. 47-51, D-6900 Heidelberg 1, West Germany
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  • This paper is based on the author's doctoral dissertation, submitted to the University of Texas at Austin.


Self awareness theory proposes that behavioural and cognitive changes following self- focused attention result from a comparison between a salient behavioural or cognitive aspect of the person and a relevant internal standard of correctness. Generalized drive has been offered as an alternative interpretation not requiring the assumption of a mediating cognitive process. The notion was tested that an internal standard of correctness, and not response dominance, guides behaviour following self-focused attention. The internal standard used, originality, was to be contrary to dominance. Subjects high or low on this standard were assigned to either a self-awareness, an arousal, or a control condition. First, response dominance was clearly established on a paired associates task. Then subjects' own associations to the stimulus words were obtained. In the self awareness condition, the originality of responses corresponded to internal standards. Responses in the arousal condition were not as predicted, but could be interpreted through the presumption that the particular operationalization of arousal raised not only drive level but also provided self-related stimuli. The data imply that internal standards of correctness and not response dominance influence the behaviour of those whose attention is self focused.