Self-attention and self-report: The “veridicality” hypothesis


  • Thanks are extended to Neil Lutsky and Meg Gerrard for their comments on the manuscript.

Requests for reprints should be addressed to: F. X. Gibbons, Department of Psychology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011.


Wicker (1969) summarized the state of the art in the area of attitude/behavior consistency by suggesting that attitude measures are often only slightly related to overt behaviors. Since that time literally hundreds of studies have been conducted dealing with the question of how the predictive validity of self-assessment can be improved—above the 30 figure that Wicker suggested represents the typical upper limit of correlations between self-reported attitudes and behavior. This article deals with perhaps one of the simplest factors that does appear to be related to accurate self-assessment: internal focus of attention. Research in the area of self-awareness theory is discussed, leading to the conclusion that assessments of various aspects of the self, including attitudes, cognitions, and affective and somatic states, usually are more accurate when they are made by a respondent whose attention is self-directed. By the same token, overt behavior also tends to be more consistent with previously expressed attitudes when it occurs under conditions conducive to self-focus. In discussing this research, it is suggested that self-awareness promotes accuracy in two ways: (a) It focuses the respondent's attention more carefully on those aspects of the self made relevant by the instrument and (b) it increases the person's motivation to report accurately on those self-dimensions. It is also suggested, however, that this latter factor can sometimes work against consistency. In this regard, a variety of situations are discussed in which motives that may conflict with the desire to report accurately, such as ego-protectiveness, are also enhanced by self-focused attention. Finally, a number of empirical questions are presented as guidelines for future research.