Behavioural Science Blog

The Science of Human Behaviour

Posts Tagged ‘Strack

Are We Strangers to Ourselves?

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Who are you?

Okay…easy enough question, but get this one:
How do you know who you are?
Do you get it right?

So many times I meet people that tell me all about them and how they are and when I finally get to know them, they seem to do quite the opposite of what they honestly believe about themselves (me included). So let’s take one step back and look at some ways that you can learn about yourself:

  • Feedback by others
  • Reflecting on appraisal
  • Introspection (emotions / preferences)
  • Self-perception (à la Bem)
  • Social comparison
  • …(probably a hundred more)…

Looking at the points above I propose two dimensions for categorization:

  • Information required by others / by ourselves
  • Information about behavior / about feelings and thoughts

For example I always thought of myself as being very sensitive to other people. Which is (kindly spoken) rubbish. But how did I come to think that way in the first place and why did I stop believing in it? It all started when I started seeing this girl, more precisely when she started telling me what I was actually (not) doing. I was taken my motivation for granted and did not really look at my behavior. In fact in inferred from my thought hoe I should be like…well I was not.

To cut a long story short Roos Vonk explained to me last week, why we think all sorts of things about ourselves that don’t have anything to do with what we seem to be doing (from someones else’s perspective). Roos Vonk is teacher at the Radboud University and has her own coaching company, but unless you inherited a fortune you probably cannot pay her anyway…

Recent theories indicate that there is an implicit self and an explicit self. While the explicit self is related to what we consciously think about ourselves, the implicit self is more strongly related to actual behavior. You could compared those two self-concepts to the implicit and the reflective system of Strack & Deutsch.

When asking WHY-questions we are talking about the explicit self in a conscious way. But it is questionable if we can understand the ways of the implicit self (and behavior) by asking these kinds of conscious, reflective questions. Instead it would be much smarter to ask WHAT-questions and to look at our own behaviour as if we would be another person. This way we can possibly negate some misleading thought and interpretations (and motivations on how we want to be).

So in the end…are we we strangers to ourselves. I would answer with a nes: We most probably cannot get insights about our own behavior by thinking about ourselves, yet if we train to think in a different we have the chance to observe ourselves 14 hours (probably more for the hard working scientists) a day. Several tools can also help us keep track of our behavior in an unbiased way. But for the lazy ones: Asking your girlfriend / boyfriend might actually be much more effective.

Written by Martin Metzmacher

May 13, 2008 at 8:46 pm

Differences in Impulsive Processes

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Imagine walking into a library. All objects in that building are based on the same principle, they all use paper with letters printed on it to deliver a specific message. So should we just put all the books, articles and newspapers on one pile? No – it makes sense to structure the objects according to the topic they deal with (so that books and newspapers about gardening stand close to each other). This additional information helps us to deal with the information presented in a much more efficient way. The same is true for the categorization of automatic processes into meaningful groups.

The model of Strack and Deutsch proposes different levels of the reflective system, like propositional categorization or Noetic decision. The Impulsive system is composed of episodic and semantic links, which they call the “associative store”. It is within this associative store that through perception certain concepts are activated and activation spreads to behaviour schemata, that in turn may be acted upon. These impulsive actions are important, because only they can produce behaviour.

A scientific model is always a simplification of reality. Models that can explain everything are indeed worthless to science. The question then becomes: What is the ultimate goal of our research into behaviour? Do we want to end up with a system that explains behaviour in purely mechanical (biological, chemical, and physical) terms, as sometimes suggested by neuroscience? If that is the case, then we should try to incorporate all automatic effects into one big theory. Yet within such a model it would be hard to generate specific hypotheses to investigate. Taking a smaller concept (such as goals) it is much easier to identify specific automatic behaviour that is connected to it (such as goal activation). The description of the automatic process at hand can therefore be optimized to the specific situation (for example how different goals might interact), which makes it easier to focus on the relevant facts. The hypothesis as proposed by the duality model of Deutsch and Strack can be tested on the theories about automatic effects. Incorporating new knowledge about the processes within the impulsive system can improve those theories, but does not mean we have to take everything into account at the same time.

Written by Martin Metzmacher

February 21, 2008 at 8:33 am

The Role of Deliberative Processing in Behavioural Regulation

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It is interesting to note that most of models for behaviour have a focus on the automatic, impulsive part of behavioural regulation. However, deliberation has not disappeared from the scene and makes up a part of some models.

The Mode-Model by Fazio consists of two different classes of processes that can regulate behaviour. The spontaneous process begins with the presence of an environmental trigger. Such perceptions are affected by the knowledge structures, affect, value and expectations that are associated with the current situation. The model expects behaviour to be largely determined by this route. The deliberative processing is marked by cognitive work. It needs conscious information to be present and analyses it in order to identify costs and benefits. However, a deliberative process might still involve some components that are influenced by automatic processes, thus mixed processes are possible.

In his paper on implementation intention Gollwitzer (1993) focuses on the automatic route to behaviour. He also believes that with perceptual information certain situated knowledge is activated. In his model automatic goal pursuit arises from frequent pairing of goal and stimulus. He proposes however a deliberative way to mimic this process. If an implementation intention is consciously formed and practised then this goal information will become active, when the “if” perception occurs. The behavioural schema of the “then”-part is then automatically activated.

Pochaska’s research has led to some interesting findings concerning the change of behavioural patterns. He proposes a model of five steps that are connected in a circle. The first step is precontemplation, followed by contemplation and preparation. The behaviour change is then enacted and, crucially for the success, maintained. Although automatic processes might also be involved, the general outline is focussed on deliberative thought. Most of the suggestion for supporting people who are changing involve stimulating deliberative thought processes in the client.

Last but not least, the model of the reflective impulsive system as supposed by Strack and Deutsch: The main body of the model is made up of the associative store. Episodic and semantic links spread activation between the perception /imagination and behavioural schemata. Only the impulsive system is able to generate behaviour by an “impulsive action”. Yet the reflective system is also important, as it can influence the spreading of activation of every step of the deliberation process. Those steps involve: Propositional categorization, noetic decision and behavioural decision. This model is very comprehensive and provides a unifying framework for many different theories.

The Mode-Model, Gollwitzer’s idea on implementation intention and the reflective impulsive system share many features, yet they focus on slightly different topics with regard to behaviour control. Whereas Gollwitzer is interested in how behaviour can be changed, but on a more mechanical level than Pockaska, the other two models give an explanation of how and why behaviour arises from a more general point of view.

I believe that the strongest empirical evidence for the effect of deliberation on behaviour comes from intention implementation, because in order to change unwanted behaviour one does need to compete with the automatic behaviour for the most activation in order to activate the appropriate behavioural schema. In order to do so the automatic associations must be changed. This was confirmed by Gollwitzer (2002) and his colleagues. They showed that participants holding implementation intentions reacted to words describing the anticipated critical situation much stronger than participants who had only formed goal intentions.

I believe that all theories concerned with deliberation will need to look closely at automatic, impulsive behaviour. As with the implementation intention I believe that the influence of deliberation on behaviour is mostly indirect, as supposed by Strack and Deutsch. Furthermore I believe that research in embodied embedded cognition will contribute to the topic of behavioural regulation, because it can generate specific hypotheses on how the activation in the impulsive system spreads. For example, Wong & Yon (1991) have proposed that associations are less semantically but more perceptually oriented. For example, asking participants to describe a water melon (many report green and stripes) yields different results than asking them to describe half a water melon (participants report much more red). I believe that if it is clearer how the associations are interconnected, it will also be much easier to see how deliberate processes can have influence on behaviour and how reflective and impulsive processes interact with each other.