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On the Road to Self-Perception: Interpretation of Self-Behaviors Can Be Altered by Priming


  • We thank Michelle Martinelli, Joe Robinson, and Tahlia Whiteman for their assistance in completing this project.

concerning this article should be addressed to John J. Skowronski, Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115. E-mail:


ABSTRACT In 3 experiments, some participants read a story describing ambiguously mean behaviors performed by another person. Other participants read the story and imagined that they performed the behaviors. Results showed that (a) exposure to a conceptual priming manipulation caused assimilation effects in actor meanness judgments, regardless of whether the actor was self or other, (b) tasks designed neither to heighten self-concept accessibility nor to threaten the self moderated the effects of conceptual meanness primes on self-meanness judgments, and (c) this lack of moderation occurred despite considerable evidence of self–enhancement effects elsewhere in self-judgments. A fourth experiment examined the extent to which priming affected interpretations of real self or other behavior. Results were consistent with the idea that priming altered event interpretation and subsequent judgments but also suggested that judgments were influenced by self-enhancement motivation. Implications of the results for theorizing in personality and self-knowledge acquisition are discussed.

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