Self-directed attention and the comparison of self with standards

Michael F. Scheier, Charles S. Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Several theorists have assumed that self-directed attention causes a comparison between one's present behavior or state and whatever is salient and relevant as a standard of comparison. Indirect evidence bearing on this assumption was gathered in a series of four studies by monitoring subjects' tendencies to access concrete information needed to make such behavior-standard comparisons. Self-focus was varied in two of these studies by experimental manipulations: a mirrored surface, and a live observer. In the other two studies, self-focus was operationalized in terms of subjects' dispositional tendencies to direct attention to themselves (self-consciousness). Consistent with expectations, in Experiments 1 and 2, self-directed attention led to increased frequency of referring to drawings of geometric figures when attempting to reproduce them. In Experiments 3 and 4, self-focused attention increased subjects' tendencies to seek out information about ostensible performance norms reflecting the behavior of other subjects, also as predicted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-222
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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