A cybernetic model of self-attention processes

Charles S. Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Scopus citations


Proposes a model of self-directed attention, which includes the following assumptions: When attention is directed to environmental stimuli, those stimuli are analyzed and categorized according to the person's preexisting recognitory schemas. Self-directed attention often leads to a similar analysis of self-information; experientially, such a state of self-focus enhances awareness of one's salient self-aspects. In some cases categorization--either of one's context or of some self-element--elicits a response schema, which constitutes a behavioral standard. If a prior categorization has evoked such a behavioral standard, subsequent self-attention engages an automatic sequence in which behavior is altered to conform more closely with the standard. This matching-to-standard is construed as the occurrence within a psychological system of a test-operate-test-exit unit or a negative feedback loop--a cybernetic construct applicable to many phenomena. If the matching-to-standard process is interrupted, subsequent behavior depends on an outcome expectancy judgment. A favorable outcome expectancy causes a return to the matching-to-standard attempt; an unfavorable expectancy results in behavioral withdrawal. (3 p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1251-1281
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1979


  • cybernetic model, self attention processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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