Is it true that acting can affect one's behavior?

Is it true that acting can affect one's behavior?

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Is it true that acting can affect one's behaviour?

For example, if someone plays a protagonist, can this affect them to be a good person? Is there any solid evidence for this?

This is true. Mot et al. (1994) published scientific research about it. Also there are a lot of actors that claim they feel that their personality has changed since they played a role.

Also a similair practice can be used for insecure people. If they act confident it has been proven that after some time, they feel more confident as well.


Since I'm new to stackexchange I did not know how much detail is desired. Therefore, let me expand upon my original comment.

The article states the following hypotheses:

(1) the actor chosen to play a given character would have personality characteristics similar to that of his or her corresponding character

(2) the actor's self-perceived personality profile would become more similar to the character's during the rehearsal and production period.

Later on the article states that:

Support emerged for the second hypothesis, but not for the first. Observations regarding these findings and suggestions for future explorations are given.

The article expands upon this, but I can't access the paper, because it's pay-walled.


  • Hannah M. T., Domino G., Hanson R. Hannah R. (September 1994) Acting and Personality Change: The Measurement of Change in Self-Perceived Personality Characteristics during the Actors Character Development Process, Journal of Research in Personality, 28(3):277-286

Is Drunk You the Real You?

Sometimes, the “good” version of you — the one that successfully holds down a job, keeps a relationship together and maintains a semblance of a normal life — is eclipsed by a different one: Enter Drunk You. This is the you that thinks eight cheeseburgers is a reasonable dinner that sees a fistfight as a valid response to being bumped into that thinks, hey, it’s really important that I tell my much-more-sober boss every detail of the last 10 years of my sex life. Drunk You is the you that tries to loudly undo all the good that Sober You does, a rampaging super-nemesis hellbent on your destruction.

But as the ancient expression goes, In vino veritas — “in wine, truth.” Is, as some people believe, Drunk You just the real you, let loose from their cage by the inhibition-squashing effects of alcohol? Or is it some mutant transformation that occurs in our brains when sozzled? We turned to the experts for help.

Does alcohol give me a different personality?

This is a surprisingly complicated question, not least because personalities themselves are hard to define. “There is a real debate about what a personality is,” says Rachel Winograd, an assistant research professor at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health. “Does everyone have a core personality? Or is our personality totally dependent on where we are?” We show very different versions of ourselves in different situations — the you playing poker with your buddies is very different to the you that’s having lunch with your girlfriend’s grandmother — so Winograd argues that maybe Drunk You is just one more aspect of your personality, no more or less valid than any of the others.

Interestingly, no one notices the change in personality from Sober You to Drunk You more than, well, you. “I found that if you ask drinkers to report on how they think they are when they’re sober and how they think they are when they’re drunk, you see big differences. But if you ask strangers who are watching those people get drunk if they notice any differences, they really only see the difference in extraversion, and that’s it.” In other words, even though you might wake up the next day in a panic about just how crazy you acted the night before, to the casual onlooker, nothing much changed except for the fact that whatever you did, you did it louder than normal. “A lot of your personality is hard to see — it’s in your head, it’s your mood,” explains Winograd. “We’re able to report on it, as a drinker, better than someone else who is just watching us.”

This said, since alcohol is known to affect your personality by physically altering your brain chemistry — doing things like increasing aggression and lowering inhibitions — it can be argued that it is, indeed, shaping the form that Drunk You takes. “If you’re asking if alcohol changes your personality,” says Winograd, “Then we have research to suggest that, yeah, it does.”

If alcohol influences how I behave, does that mean Drunk Me should get a pass for whatever dumb thing I did last night?

The short answer here is that alcohol may be a reason, but that doesn’t necessarily make it an excuse. “You had a choice to pick up that drink, and that second one, and that third one,” says Winograd. “That being said, blackout is real, and people will do things while they are — even though they’re still walking around — effectively unconscious. They may do things they never would have done if they were sober. Does that mean that they are not responsible for it? No — they’re still responsible for it, but it may be true that they didn’t have the intention of doing it.”

Why does Drunk Me sometimes turn into such an angry, raging douchebag?

The answer you probably don’t want to hear is that maybe you’re just an angry person in general, and that alcohol amplifies this. But it’s also true that, at a chemical level, alcohol affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain — the part that deals with complex decision-making and, while sober, the part most responsible for keeping you out of trouble. It also messes with your serotonin levels, and since people with lower levels of serotonin tend to be more violent, booze can be a shortcut to a furious shoving match.

/>Image via Flickr

The bad news for problem drinkers is that, over time, these anger issues are only going to get worse. “Angry rages by regular drinkers are often the result of being deprived of REM [Rapid Eye Movement] sleep — the most restorative kind of sleep,” says Nicki Nance, an assistant professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fl. “Drunk people pass out straight into deep sleep. Depriving anyone of REM sleep for several nights in a row — even if they never drink — will make them irritable, suspicious, and even paranoid. If you couple that with the released inhibitions [that come with alcohol], it writes the script for a drunken rage.”

If Drunk Me is just regular me with no inhibitions, does that mean Drunk Me is more honest than Sober Me?

Since we tend to spill our guts when we’re hammered, it’s tempting to assume that this is the long-guarded truth that’s finally found an outlet. But this isn’t always the case. “For some people it’s true for others it isn’t,” says Winograd. “It’s based on what their motives are. If this is something they’ve been keeping inside them for a while and let it out after a few drinks — and it sounds sincere — then I’d say it was probably something they’d kept bottled up inside them. But we also know that sometimes, we get carried away and misspeak. Alcohol can cause that to happen, so we shouldn’t always hold people to what they said when they’re drunk.”

Can I change Drunk Me? If Drunk Me always gets depressed and weepy, is there a way to make it so Drunk Me gets happy, instead?

Sadly, this is extremely unlikely. “If you’re someone who cries every time you get drunk, it might be time to either cut back or just accept that that’s how it is,” says Winograd. “You can’t just snap your fingers and say, ‘Be different,’ any more than you can when you’re really sad when you’re sober. You can’t just snap out of it.”

Image via Flickr

Nance paints an even bleaker picture, claiming that, over time, the reverse is more likely: That a happy drunk will become a depressed or angry drunk. “With continuous drinking, people have more and more sleep disturbances, therefore more and more mood issues. Drinking can cause losses in relationships, finances and physical health — this can all create enough stress to trigger a depressive reaction.”

The slim silver lining here is that, according to Winograd, it’s at least possible to affect some of your drunken behaviors, if not your mood. “You can do things to shape your behavior by employing some different behavioral strategies,” she says. “If you know that you’re really irresponsible and reckless when you get drunk, then while you’re still sober, hide your car keys and credit card, only take a $20 bill, and make sure you’re not wearing anything expensive. Don’t set yourself up to fail by driving drunk and ruining your clothes. You can prevent some consequences from how you are when you drink by making better behavioral choices [when you’re sober].”

Is all the crap that Drunk Me eats — late night junk food binges, etc. — what Sober Me wants to eat all the time but won’t let myself, or is that a craving that’s caused by alcohol?

It’s certainly true that alcohol can make us crave junk food: Studies suggest that a brain chemical called galanin is behind our cravings for booze and fatty foods, and when we can no longer stomach the idea of drinking more alcohol, we turn instead to junk food to satisfy said cravings. But the over-ordering that tends to come as standard with a drunken binge seems to be more a “Screw you” from Drunk You to Sober You than anything else.

Image via Flickr

In the case of someone who’s normally pretty careful about their diet, Winograd says that, “It’s much more of a reflection of lowered inhibition than it is alcohol making you crave a specific type of food. We all want to eat a pile of junk food, right? But we don’t let ourselves during the course of a normal day. Then you drink, and suddenly there are fewer barriers between you and that pile of food. It’s analogous to the person who has a crush that they’ve been bottling up and then let it out when they’re drunk, because there isn’t much holding them back anymore.”

So… is Drunk Me the real me?

As we’ve seen, there are many different aspects of your personality that can be directly affected by alcohol. But how does it work as a whole? Is the you that emerges from the bottom of a bottle the real you, unfettered by the constraints of polite society? Certainly, Drunk You is not a completely different animal to Sober You. “Staples of temperament and personality persist in people, whether they are drunk or sober,” says Nance. “Alcohol does affect some people differently, but their responses are probably more a function of who they are when they aren’t drunk.”

But maybe there’s a more positive way of looking at this. The idea that Drunk You — a whirling dervish of potential disasters — is the true you that’s normally kept hidden does Sober You a huge disservice. Barring an alcohol abuse problem, the majority of your life is spent as Sober You, and that’s the you that makes all the most important decisions — the you that gets up for work, that pays the bills and feeds the kids. It’s the you that does all the hard work and deserves a break by letting Drunk You out to play once in a while.

“I’d say that the real you is how you are every day,” says Winograd. “The intoxicated you is just a side of you. The you that’s on top of it, that’s eating healthily, that’s keeping everything together — that’s the real you. Give yourself some credit.”

Nick Leftley

Nick Leftley is MEL's senior editor, or something like that, it's not entirely clear. He writes and edits stuff, and has been doing so since print magazines were actually a thing. He smells pretty good.

How does ACT relate to psychological flexibility?

ACT teaches skills to help you develop your psychological flexibility. There are 6 core processes that work together to help you respond more effectively to life’s challenges. The 6 core processes of psychological flexibility include:

Cognitive Defusion: Your ability to step back from your thoughts as opposed to being entangled in them.

Acceptance: Your ability to open up, be willing, and allow for difficult emotions, sensations, and other inner experiences.

Values: Knowing what you care about and acting in a way that is consistent with the type of person you want to be in the important domains of your life.

Perspective Taking: The ability to open your mind beyond the stories it has about yourself placing you on a grander more flexible vantage point.

Being Present: Becoming aware of the present moment and staying present during the times that matter most to you.

Committed Action: Taking deliberate action toward your values.

What Is Abnormal Behavior?

You have probably heard the term &ldquoabnormal behavior&rdquo before. You probably think of it is as any type of human behavior that seems weird or strange. However, when you hear the term &ldquoabnormal behavior&rdquo in a psychological context, it refers to something more specific. In psychology, abnormal behavior refers to four general criteria. They are maladaptive behavior, personal distress, statistical rarity, and violation of social norms. In this article, we&rsquore going to talk about each of those.

Maladaptive Behavior


The first behavior that psychologists think of as abnormal is maladaptive. Maladaptive behavior is behavior that will likely lead to harm either to the person who is exhibiting it or to someone else. The harm of which we are speaking might be physical. Punching someone in the face is undoubtedly going to be classified as maladaptive. Cutting yourself intentionally would be another example.

You can harm yourself from a social standpoint, and that behavior would be considered to be maladaptive as well. An example of that might be acting in a particular way at work that you know is going to get you disciplined or fired. If you urinate in public or vandalize something, then those would be other maladaptive behaviors.

Personal Distress

Personal distress is where you are engaging in abnormal behavior, and the reason for it is some type of difficulty that you are experiencing. One of the common examples of this is obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is where you are experiencing a great deal of anxiety, and it&rsquos leading to your engaging in behaviors that are meant to make you feel better. The behaviors might be many different things, but the point is that you have little or no control over them, hence the &ldquocompulsive&rdquo aspect.

Personal distress can be somewhat of an anomaly when described in these terms. That is because some people may be experiencing it without even being aware of it. For instance, if you have a mental illness, then you might accurately be classified as being in distress sometimes, but you won&rsquot necessarily be able to understand that or acknowledge it. Your distress might be acute, or it might be chronic.

Statistical Rarity


Statistical rarity refers to someone who is atypical in some way, and because of that, they are engaging in behavior that is considered to be abnormal. For instance, if you have a developmental disorder or an extremely low IQ, then you are deemed to be a statistical rarity.

However, there are also some people who can be considered statistical rarities, and what is different about them probably would not be considered an impairment. For instance, individuals who have extremely high IQs are also statistical rarities. Someone like Albert Einstein would be considered to be one, so according to these strict definitions, he would be thought of as abnormal, despite the negative connotation that usually accompanies the word.

Violation Of Social Norms

The fourth abnormal behavior is a violation of social norms. It is easy to identify someone who is engaging in these behaviors. A man who removes all of his clothing and goes running down the street will be seen as abnormal. However, a three-year-old child who does the same thing will not. In this way, you can see how a person&rsquos age has just as much to do with what&rsquos considered a social norm violation as the activity itself.

What Causes Abnormal Behavior?

Because there are many different sorts of behaviors that could be considered abnormal and fall into one of the described categories, there are equally many potential causes for it. They might have something to do with a psychological disorder, with the situation in which a person finds themselves, or there could be other factors involved. Let&rsquos look at some examples.

Your Mental Health And Abnormality

Let&rsquos say that you have a woman who enters a grocery store, takes a candy bar off a shelf, peels off the wrapper, and starts eating it. She starts to walk out of the store, but one of the employees stops her and demands that she pay for it. She expresses surprise and doesn&rsquot understand why what she is doing is objectionable.

There are different possible explanations for this behavior, which would certainly be classified as abnormal. In this case, maybe once a doctor has a chance to make a thorough examination of the woman, she determines that there is a tumor in the part of the woman&rsquos brain that has to do with impulse control. Because the tumor has damaged that part of the brain, the woman is no longer able to control her impulses as effectively. The same thing might happen in the case of a stroke. A partial recovery might take place, but the part of the brain that deals with impulse control has been permanently affected.

You can see how abnormal behavior might have something to do with what is happening in a person&rsquos mind. You might observe abnormal behavior in someone who has schizophrenia and is off their medication, or many other conditions could cause it as well.

Situational Behavioral Abnormality

Let&rsquos say that there is a plane crash that takes place in a remote part of the world. The plane has gone down on a desolate mountain peak. Some rescuers are trying to find it, but as they are searching, the survivors are running out of food. They scrounge for whatever they can find, but gradually, they begin to waste away from hunger. Some of them perish, and the others must resort to the unthinkable. They cook and eat the flesh of some of those who have died.

Most cultures would agree that cannibalism is abnormal behavior. If you are in society and you are well fed and content, then it&rsquos something that you would never think of doing. It is the extreme situation caused by the plane crash that has led to this occurrence.

There are plenty of other potential examples. The festival known as Burning Man, which takes place out in the Nevada desert, attracts all kinds of free thinkers and creative individuals. It&rsquos a place where the outlandish activity is expected and encouraged. When you go there, you might see people walking around in animal costumes or completely naked. If you were walking down the street of a major metropolitan city, then you wouldn&rsquot see those things. The abnormal behavior is, once again, entirely situational.

Can You Control Abnormal Behavior?

The issue of whether or not you can control abnormal behavior is directly related to what it is that&rsquos causing it. In the case where you have someone who is acting out of the ordinary because of something like a brain tumor then there probably isn&rsquot much that individual can do to behave more in line with what society expects.

The same is true if some other mental condition is involved. That is why you see so many homeless people who seem to be acting erratically. It&rsquos because, in many cases, they have become homeless because of mental illness. They don&rsquot have anyone to take care of them, and they have become unable to care for themselves. That is why they&rsquove ended up on the street. Many of them probably should be on medication, but they can&rsquot afford it, otherwise access it, or they aren&rsquot willing to take it.

The short answer is that some kinds of abnormal behavior can be controlled, and others can&rsquot. The actions that you have control over you might take for granted if you are mentally competent. It is often the people who are mentally ill or who can&rsquot help but act in compulsory fashions that get themselves into trouble in society. These people can sometimes find help through therapy or medication. The question is whether they are self-aware enough to seek out these sorts of resources.

What Can You Do If Someone You Know Is Exhibiting Abnormal Behavior?


If someone you know seems to be displaying behavior that you would classify as abnormal according to any of the four categories that we described, then it can be distressing for you. You know that if they continue to act in that way, then it can adversely affect their lives and possibly yours as well.

The best thing for you to do is to speak to them about the behavior and try to ascertain what it is that&rsquos causing it. If they&rsquore aware of the harm that their actions are causing, then they should be open to seeking treatment. They might be able to stop on their own, or therapy or medications (as prescribed by a doctor) might be an option. If they&rsquore not able to recognize that what they are doing is harmful, then that could be an indication that they are mentally unwell. Lucid people should at least be able to understand when they are behaving abnormally.

Do You Need To Speak To Someone About An Individual Who Is Behaving Abnormally?

If you do have a family member or a friend who is exhibiting abnormal behavior and you are not certain about what to do or how to bring it up with them, then it&rsquos helpful to have a qualified mental health professional with whom you can discuss the situation. You can contact BetterHelp and talk over the problem. It is also important to make sure you take of your own mental health in such situations.

If you&rsquore curious about how effective online therapy is, rest assured that you&rsquore not alone. Researchers have been working to answer that question. So far, the answer is really promising! HuffPost recently broke down some of the top studies, citing that many common talk therapies are just as effective as traditional therapy for treating mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and even eating disorders.

Another great part of online therapy is that it&rsquos flexible. If you&rsquore taking care of someone right now, there&rsquos no need to run to an office for therapy. You can have support from a counselor anywhere you&rsquore comfortable and have a secure internet connection. Online therapy is often less expensive than traditional therapy as well.

If you&rsquore like to hear some firsthand experience, here are reviews by recent BetterHelp users about their counselors:

&ldquoAlexis has been a wonderful support to me over the last few months while dealing with a close family member&rsquos illness. She provides excellent advice and has really helped me to cope during this time. She is a great listener and has taught me really useful coping mechanisms that have helped me so much.&rdquo Read more on Alexis Johnson.

&ldquoI have enjoyed my sessions with Dr. Ash and have found them to be helpful. Being able to share concerns and struggles and receive support and expert guidance is so important right now. I feel that I can&rsquot take care of those around me if I am not working to take care of myself. Dr. Ash is helping me to learn how to be more successful with self care!&rdquo Read more on Bearlyn Ash.

Abnormal behavior has its place. The person who enjoys behaving strangely should be able to do so as long as it doesn&rsquot hurt themselves or anyone else. That&rsquos why there are events like Burning Man, where individuals can behave strangely in an appropriate setting. The problem comes about when such people can no longer compartmentalize what they are doing, and it begins to leak over into their daily life. You know that you need to correct your behavior when you&rsquore in danger of being arrested, losing your job, or there being some other adverse response to the choices that you are making.

False Memories Affect Behavior

Do you know someone who claims to remember their first day of kindergarten? Or a trip they took as a toddler? While some people may be able to recall trivial details from the past, laboratory research shows that the human memory can be remarkably fragile and even inventive.

In fact, people can easily create false memories of their past and a new study shows that such memories can have long-term effects on our behavior.

Psychologists Elke Geraerts of the University of St. Andrews and Maastricht University, Daniel Bernstein of Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the University of Washington, Harald Merckelbach, Christel Linders, and Linsey Raymaekers of Maastricht University, and Elizabeth F. Loftus of University of California, Irvine, found that it is possible to change long-term behaviors using a simple suggestive technique.

In a series of experiments, the researchers falsely suggested that participants had become ill after eating egg salad as a child. Afterwards, the researchers offered different kinds of sandwiches to the participants, including ones with an egg salad filling. Four months later, the participants were asked to be in a separate study in which they evaluated egg salad as well as other foods. They were then given the same kinds of sandwiches that had been offered to them four months earlier.

Interestingly, participants who were told they had become ill as a child after eating egg salad showed a distinct change in attitudes and behavior towards this food after the experiment. They not only gave the food lower evaluations than participants who did not develop false memories or were in the control group, but they also avoided egg salad sandwiches more than any of the other participants four months later.

The results, appearing in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, &ldquoclearly demonstrate that false suggestions about childhood events can profoundly change people&rsquos attitudes and behavior,&rdquo wrote the authors.

These findings have significant implications for the authenticity of reports of recovered memory experiences. While previous research indicates that spontaneously recovered memories may reflect real memories of abuse, there is no such evidence for abuse memories recovered through suggestive therapy. The results might also influence obesity treatments and dieting choices. The authors suggest that it may be possible for people to learn to avoid certain foods by believing they had negative experiences with the food as a child. Overall, this study clearly demonstrates that false suggestions about childhood events can profoundly change people&rsquos attitudes and behavior.

Research Focus

If you think a bit about your own experiences of different emotions, and if you consider the equation that suggests that emotions are represented by both arousal and cognition, you might start to wonder how much was determined by each. That is, do we know what emotion we are experiencing by monitoring our feelings (arousal) or by monitoring our thoughts (cognition)?

Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer (1962) addressed this question in a well-known social psychological experiment. Schachter and Singer believed that the cognitive part of the emotion was critical—in fact, they believed that the arousal that we are experiencing could be interpreted as any emotion, provided we had the right label for it. Thus they hypothesized that if individuals are experiencing arousal for which they have no immediate explanation, they will “label” this state in terms of the cognitions that are most accessible in the environment. On the other hand, they argued that people who already have a clear label for their arousal would have no need to search for a relevant label and therefore should not experience an emotion.

In the research experiment, the male participants were told that they would be participating in a study on the effects of a new drug, called “suproxin,” on vision. On the basis of this cover story, the men were injected with a shot of epinephrine, a drug that produces physiological arousal. The idea was to give all the participants arousal epinephrine normally creates feelings of tremors, flushing, and accelerated breathing in people.

Then, according to random assignment to conditions, the men were told that the drug would make them feel certain ways. The men in the epinephrine-informed condition were told the truth about the effects of the drug—they were told that other participants had experienced tremors and that their hands would start to shake, their hearts would start to pound, and their faces might get warm and flushed. The participants in the epinephrine-uninformed condition, however, were told something untrue—that their feet would feel numb, that they would have an itching sensation over parts of their body, and that they might get a slight headache. The idea was to make some of the men think that the arousal they were experiencing was caused by the drug (the informed condition), whereas others would be unsure where the arousal came from (the uninformed condition).

Then the men were left alone with a confederate who they thought had received the same injection. While they were waiting for the experiment (which was supposedly about vision) to begin, the confederate behaved in a wild and crazy (Schachter and Singer called it “euphoric”) manner. He wadded up spitballs, flew paper airplanes, and played with a hula hoop. He kept trying to get the participants to join in his games. Then right before the vision experiment was to begin, the participants were asked to indicate their current emotional states on a number of scales. One of the emotions they were asked about was euphoria.

If you are following the story here, you will realize what was expected—that the men who had a label for their arousal (the informed group) would not be experiencing much emotion—they had a label already available for their arousal. The men in the misinformed group, on the other hand, were expected to be unsure about the source of the arousal—they needed to find an explanation for their arousal, and the confederate provided one. Indeed, as you can see in Figure 2.17, “Misattributing Emotion,” this is just what the researchers found.

Then Schachter and Singer did another part of the study, using new participants. Everything was exactly the same except for the behavior of the confederate. Rather than being euphoric, he acted angry. He complained about having to complete the questionnaire he had been asked to do, indicating that the questions were stupid and too personal. He ended up tearing up the questionnaire that he was working on, yelling, “I don’t have to tell them that!” Then he grabbed his books and stormed out of the room.

What do you think happened in this condition? The answer, of course, is, exactly the same thing—the misinformed participants experienced more anger than did the informed participants. The idea is that because cognitions are such strong determinants of emotional states, the same state of physiological arousal could be labeled in many different ways, depending entirely on the label provided by the social situation. We will revisit the effects of misattribution of arousal when we consider sources of romantic attraction.

Figure 2.17 Misattributing Emotion. The results of an experiment by Schachter and Singer (1962) supported the two-factor theory of emotion. The participants who did not have a clear label for their arousal were more likely to take on the emotion of the confederate.

So, our attribution of the sources of our arousal will often strongly influence the emotional states we experience in social situations. How else might our cognition influence our affect? Another example is demonstrated in framing effects, which occur when people’s judgments about different options are affected by whether they are framed as resulting in gains or losses. In general, people feel more positive about options that are framed positively, as opposed to negatively. For example, individuals seeking to eat healthily tend to feel more positive about a product described as 95% fat free than one described as 5% fat, even though the information in the two messages is the same. In the same way, people tend to prefer treatment options that stress survival rates as opposed to death rates. Framing effects have been demonstrated in regards to numerous social issues, including judgments relating to charitable donations (Chang & Lee, 2010) and green environmental practices (Tu, Kao, & Tu, 2013). In reference to our chapter case study, they have also been implicated in decisions about risk in financial contexts and in the explanation of market behaviors (Kirchler, Maciejovsky, & Weber, 2010).

Social psychologists have also studied how we use our cognitive faculties to try to control our emotions in social situations, to prevent them from letting our behavior get out of control. The process of setting goals and using our cognitive and affective capacities to reach those goals is known as self-regulation, and a good part of self-regulation involves regulating our emotions. To be the best people that we possibly can, we have to work hard at it. Succeeding at school, at work, and at our relationships with others takes a lot of effort. When we are successful at self-regulation, we are able to move toward or meet the goals that we set for ourselves. When we fail at self-regulation, we are not able to meet those goals. People who are better able to regulate their behaviors and emotions are more successful in their personal and social encounters (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1992), and thus self-regulation is a skill we should seek to master.

A significant part of our skill in self-regulation comes from the deployment of cognitive strategies to try to harness positive emotions and to overcome more challenging ones. For example, to achieve our goals we often have to stay motivated and to be persistent in the face of setbacks. If, for example, an employee has already gone for a promotion at work and has been unsuccessful twice before, this could lead him or her to feel very negative about his or her competence and the possibility of trying for promotion again, should an opportunity arise. In these types of challenging situations, the strategy of cognitive reappraisal can be a very effective way of coping. Cognitive reappraisal involves altering an emotional state by reinterpreting the meaning of the triggering situation or stimulus. For example, if another promotion position does comes up, the employee could reappraise it as an opportunity to be successful and focus on how the lessons learned in previous attempts could strengthen his or her candidacy this time around. In this case, the employee would likely feel more positive towards the opportunity and choose to go after it.

Using strategies like cognitive reappraisal to self-regulate negative emotional states and to exert greater self-control in challenging situations has some important positive outcomes. Consider, for instance, research by Walter Mischel and his colleagues (Mischel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989). In their studies, they had four- and five-year-old children sit at a table in front of a yummy snack, such as a chocolate chip cookie or a marshmallow. The children were told that they could eat the snack right away if they wanted to. However, they were also told that if they could wait for just a couple of minutes, they’d be able to have two snacks—both the one in front of them and another just like it. However, if they ate the one that was in front of them before the time was up, they would not get a second.

Mischel found that some children were able to self-regulate—they were able to use their cognitive abilities to override the impulse to seek immediate gratification in order to obtain a greater reward at a later time. Other children, of course, were not—they just ate the first snack right away. Furthermore, the inability to delay gratification seemed to occur in a spontaneous and emotional manner, without much thought. The children who could not resist simply grabbed the cookie because it looked so yummy, without being able to cognitively stop themselves (Metcalfe & Mischel, 1999 Strack & Deutsch, 2007).

The ability to self-regulate in childhood has important consequences later in life. When Mischel followed up on the children in his original study, he found that those who had been able to self-regulate as children grew up to have some highly positive characteristics—they got better SAT scores, were rated by their friends as more socially adept, and were found to cope with frustration and stress better than those children who could not resist the tempting first cookie at a young age. Effective self-regulation is therefore an important key to success in life (Ayduk et al., 2000 Eigsti et al., 2006 Mischel, Ayduk, & Mendoza-Denton, 2003).

Self-regulation is difficult, though, particularly when we are tired, depressed, or anxious, and it is under these conditions that we more easily lose our self-control and fail to live up to our goals (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). If you are tired and worried about an upcoming test, you may find yourself getting angry and taking it out on your friend, even though your friend really hasn’t done anything to deserve it and you don’t really want to be angry. It is no secret that we are more likely to fail at our diets when we are under a lot of stress or at night when we are tired. In these challenging situations, and when our resources are particularly drained, the ability to use cognitive strategies to successfully self-regulate becomes more even more important, and difficult.

Muraven, Tice, and Baumeister (1998) conducted a study to demonstrate that emotion regulation—that is, either increasing or decreasing our emotional responses—takes work. They speculated that self-control was like a muscle—it just gets tired when it is used too much. In their experiment, they asked their participants to watch a short movie about environmental disasters involving radioactive waste and their negative effects on wildlife. The scenes included sick and dying animals, which were very upsetting. According to random assignment to conditions, one group (the increase-emotional-response condition) was told to really get into the movie and to express emotions in response to it, a second group was to hold back and decrease emotional responses (the decrease-emotional-response condition), and a third (control) group received no instructions on emotion regulation.

Both before and after the movie, the experimenter asked the participants to engage in a measure of physical strength by squeezing as hard as they could on a hand-grip exerciser, a device used for building up hand muscles. The experimenter put a piece of paper in the grip and timed how long the participants could hold the grip together before the paper fell out. Table 2.2, “Self-Control Takes Effort,” shows the results of this study. It seems that emotion regulation does indeed take effort because the participants who had been asked to control their emotions showed significantly less ability to squeeze the hand grip after the movie than before. Thus the effort to regulate emotional responses seems to have consumed resources, leaving the participants less capacity to make use of in performing the hand-grip task.

Table 2.2 Self-Control Takes Effort

Condition Handgrip strength before movie Handgrip strength after movie Change
Increase emotional response 78.73 54.63 –25.1
No emotional control 60.09 58.52 –1.57
Decrease emotional response 70.74 52.25 –18.49
Participants who had been required to either express or refrain from expressing their emotions had less strength to squeeze a hand grip after doing so. Data are from Muraven et al. (1998).

In other studies, people who had to resist the temptation to eat chocolates and cookies, who made important decisions, or who were forced to conform to others all performed more poorly on subsequent tasks that took energy in comparison to people who had not been emotionally taxed. After controlling their emotions, they gave up on subsequent tasks sooner and failed to resist new temptations (Vohs & Heatherton, 2000).

Can we improve our emotion regulation? It turns out that training in self-regulation—just like physical training—can help. Students who practiced doing difficult tasks, such as exercising, avoiding swearing, or maintaining good posture, were later found to perform better in laboratory tests of self-regulation (Baumeister, Gailliot, DeWall, & Oaten, 2006 Baumeister, Schmeichel, & Vohs, 2007 Oaten & Cheng, 2006), such as maintaining a diet or completing a puzzle.

The Power of Positive Cognition

You have probably heard about “the power of positive thinking”—the idea that thinking positively helps people meet their goals and keeps them healthy, happy, and able to effectively cope with the negative events that they experience. It turns out that positive thinking really works. People who think positively about their future, who believe that they can control their outcomes, and who are willing to open up and share with others are happier, healthier people (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

The power of positive thinking comes in different forms, but they are all helpful. Notwithstanding the potential risks of wildly optimistic beliefs about the future, outlined earlier in this chapter, some researchers have studied the effects of having an optimistic explanatory style, a way of explaining current outcomes affecting the self in a way that leads to an expectation of positive future outcomes, and have found that optimists are happier and have less stress (Carver & Scheier, 2009). Others have focused on self-efficacy, the belief in our ability to carry out actions that produce desired outcomes. People with high self-efficacy feel more confident to respond to environmental and other threats in an active, constructive way—by getting information, talking to friends, and attempting to face and reduce the difficulties they are experiencing. These people, too, are better able to ward off their stresses in comparison with people with less self-efficacy (Thompson, 2009).

Self-efficacy helps in part because it leads us to perceive that we can control the potential stressors that may affect us. Workers who have control over their work environment (e.g., by being able to move furniture and control distractions) experience less stress, as do patients in nursing homes who are able to choose their everyday activities (Rodin, 1986). Glass, Reim, and Singer (1971) found in a study that participants who believed they could stop a loud noise experienced less stress than those who did not think they could, even though the people who had the option never actually used it. The ability to control our outcomes may help explain why animals and people who have higher social status live longer (Sapolsky, 2005). Importantly, it is possible to learn to think more positively, and doing so can be beneficial to our moods and behaviors. For example, Antoni et al. (2001) found that pessimistic cancer patients who were given training in optimism reported more optimistic outlooks after the training and were less fatigued after their treatments.

Cognition About Affect: The Case of Affective Forecasting

Another way in which our cognition intersects with our emotions occurs when we engage in affective forecasting, which describes our attempts to predict how future events will make us feel. For example, we may decide to apply for a promotion at work with a larger salary partly based on forecasting that the increased income will make us happier. While it is true that we do need money to afford food and adequate shelter for ourselves and our families, after this minimum level of wealth is reached, more money does not generally buy more happiness (Easterlin, 2005). For instance, citizens in many countries today have several times the buying power they had in previous decades, and yet overall reported happiness has not typically increased (Layard, 2005).

Psychologists have found that our affective forecasting is often not very accurate (Wilson & Gilbert, 2005). For one, we tend to overestimate our emotional reactions to events. Although we think that positive and negative events that we might experience will make a huge difference in our lives, and although these changes do make at least some difference in well-being, they tend to be less influential than we think they are going to be. Positive events tend to make us feel good, but their effects wear off pretty quickly, and the same is true for negative events. For instance, Brickman, Coates, and Janoff-Bulman (1978) interviewed people who had won more than $50,000 in a lottery and found that they were not happier than they had been in the past and were also not happier than a control group of similar people who had not won the lottery. On the other hand, the researchers found that individuals who were paralyzed as a result of accidents were not as unhappy as might be expected.

How can this possibly be? There are several reasons. For one, people are resilient they bring their coping skills into play when negative events occur, and this makes them feel better. Second, most people do not continually experience very positive or very negative affect over a long period of time but, rather, adapt to their current circumstances. Just as we enjoy the second chocolate bar we eat less than we enjoy the first, as we experience more and more positive outcomes in our daily lives, we habituate to them and our well-being returns to a more moderate level (Small, Zatorre, Dagher, Evans, & Jones-Gotman, 2001). Another reason we may predict our happiness incorrectly is that our social comparisons change when our own status changes as a result of new events. People who are wealthy compare themselves with other wealthy people, people who are poor tend to compare themselves with other poor people, and people who are ill tend to compare themselves with other ill people. When our comparisons change, our happiness levels are correspondingly influenced. And when people are asked to predict their future emotions, they may focus only on the positive or negative event they are asked about and forget about all the other things that won’t change. Wilson, Wheatley, Meyers, Gilbert, and Axsom (2000) found that when people were asked to focus on all the more regular things that they will still be doing in the future (e.g., working, going to church, socializing with family and friends), their predictions about how something really good or bad would influence them were less extreme.

If pleasure is fleeting, at least misery shares some of the same quality. We might think we can’t be happy if something terrible were to happen to us, such as losing a partner, but after a period of adjustment, most people find that happiness levels return to prior levels (Bonanno et al., 2002). Health concerns tend to decrease subjective well-being, and those with a serious disability or illness show slightly lowered mood levels. But even when health is compromised, levels of misery are lower than most people expect (Lucas, 2007). For instance, although individuals with disabilities have more concern about health, safety, and acceptance in the community, they still experience overall positive happiness levels (Marinić & Brkljačić, 2008). It has been estimated that taken together, our wealth, health, and life circumstances account for only 15% to 20% of well-being scores (Argyle, 1999). Clearly, the main ingredient in happiness lies beyond, or perhaps beneath, external factors. For some further perspectives on our affective forecasting abilities, and their implications for the study of happiness, see Daniel Gilbert’s popular TED Talk at:

Having reviewed some of the literature on the interplay between social cognition and affect, it is clear that we must be mindful of how our thoughts and moods shape one another, and, in turn, affect our evaluations of our social worlds.

How Actors Create Emotions: A Problematic Psychology

Fully inhabiting the mind, mannerisms, and reality of a fictional character can be as alienating as it is rewarding.

Early on in her career, Deborah Margolin realized that she was a woman nobody liked, not even herself. She was a “homely person who was pregnant all the time”—not because she enjoyed sex, according to Margolin, but because of a sense of self-loathing that led her toward the same dead end, over and over again. She was married to a man but wished that she were with a woman. Or, rather, she wished that she were a woman—a different one. She wished she were Patience or Sarah, two women whom everyone around her seemed to want.

Historical-fiction buffs might recognize the name Patience and Sarah as a novel set in the 19th-century adapted for stage. Others might recognize Deborah Margolin not as a bitter, perpetually expectant woman, but as a playwright, an Obie-award winning performance artist, and an associate professor in Yale University’s undergraduate theater studies program.

But for Margolin, the line separating her real self from her stage self became less defined the deeper into character she went. Playing a person whose existence was blight on others’ took a real toll, emotionally and physically, and possibly even affected how her peers treated her. For many actors like Margolin who land demanding roles, fully inhabiting the mind, mannerisms, and reality of a fictional character can be as alienating as it is rewarding.

“It was depressing,” Margolin recalls. “My character would cry, and I would cry. She was miserable, and I was miserable. She was a frustrated, ignorant person trapped in a narrow life, and I felt like that. Once, while I was onstage, my purse was robbed in the dressing room, and I felt like everybody backed away from me, thinking that I would infect them with tragedy. These were lovely people—I loved them dearly—but my character was unattractive and somehow, so was I. Something about that infused the community of theater actors that I was in.”

The idea that there are psychological consequences to good acting has been espoused so often that it’s easy to assume the science is there to back it up. As a result, the sudden and often surprising deaths of talented actors sometimes inspire fearful, knowing whispers about the dangers of delving “too deep” into harrowing roles. Many theatergoers have a sense that somewhere in the actor’s psyche lies the potential to forget himself when authentically getting into character.

In truth, cognitive scientists and psychologists have been reluctant to embrace acting as a serious subject of study. But researchers like Thalia Goldstein, an assistant professor of psychology at Pace University, have recently started to investigate the links between the two fields with the idea that both disciplines can be enriched by a study of their commonalities. In a joint paper from Goldstein and Yale professor Paul Bloom, “The mind on stage: why cognitive scientists should study acting,” Goldstein argues that psychologists can look to how actors create emotions in order to understand human nature in a new way.

“I think that at their cores, psychology, cognitive science, and theater are all trying to do the same thing, which is understand why people do the things they do, our range of behavior, and where it comes from,” Goldstein says. “It’s just two different ways of looking at the same question.”

Goldstein believes that a principal barrier to such research is that few people—scientists and average viewers alike—understand the work that goes into acting and what it means to convincingly portray another person onstage. She finds it helpful to first distinguish what acting is from what it isn’t, and then determine the processes involved in performing.

As a human invention, acting is hardly a hardwired part of our biology, she notes. So while there’s no such thing as a “thespian instinct” or an adaptation that makes good acting evolutionarily advantageous, we can come closer to understanding why realistic acting is so convincing by analyzing the cognitive capacities it draws upon.

Goldstein looks at three categories—pretense, lying, and acting—as they fit into a trio of cognitive parameters. First, what is being presented perceptually and if it is actually happening or is just pretend second, what behavior is being shown and whether that behavior is a cue to reality and finally, whether the exhibited behavior is intended to fool the audience. On the first parameter, Goldstein says, all three categories are in agreement. In the cases of pretense, lying, and acting, “what is being presented perceptually, what we’re seeing, is not real.”

In the second parameter, there is some variation among the categories. “In pretense, the behavior is a cue to the fact that what [someone] is doing is not real. You’re smiling even though you say you’re sad, or you’re not using a cup when you pretend to drink,” Goldstein explains. “In deception and acting, though, the behavior [alone] is not a cue to the fact that what you’re doing is not real.”

The final category is the trickiest of all: Are actors trying to make people believe that what they’re doing is true? Well, yes and no. Acting is not lying and neither is it pretense, but both flirt with what is “true” or real to varying degrees.

“Everybody knows that when they’re watching CSI: Miami or playing tea party with a four year old that they’re watching television and not dining with the Queen,” Goldstein says. “But with lying, only the person who is lying understands what’s going on.” On the categorical spectrum then, “acting is a form of pretense that’s done with more realistic behavior, and a form of lying that everyone is in on.”

But can a realistic scenario be overly convincing? In other words, is good acting a kind of Inception?

In the 2010 film, Dominick “Dom” Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) charges architecture student Ariadne (Ellen Page) with the task of building the most convincing possible dream world. However, Dom warns Ariadne of the dangers of borrowing too heavily from her own life, telling her to “always imagine new places.”

“You’ve got to draw from stuff you know, right?” she counters, to which Dom replies, “Building a dream from your memory is the easiest way to lose grasp on what’s real and what is a dream.”

Similarly, actors must do real work—build real worlds—to temporarily convince themselves and others of the veracity of unreal circumstances. Yet they must be mindful of how much of their own lives and experiences they imbue their characters with, something they only began to do a handful of decades ago.

What we value as “realistic” acting is a relatively new and particularly American way of depicting society. Taking into consideration the arc of Western performance from highly-symbolic Greek theater, to Laurence Olivier’s classic turn as Hamlet in 1948, to pretty much any Meryl Streep role, ever, it becomes evident that audiences’ demand to really believe what they are seeing has been a gradual, modish progression.

The trend toward realism in acting emerged in the mid-20th century due to the influence of Russian actor and director Constantin Stanislavsky, who urged actors to strive for “believable truth.” As noted on

Stanislavsky first employed methods such as “emotional memory.” To prepare for a role that involves fear, the actor must remember something frightening, and attempt to act the part in the emotional space of that fear they once felt. Stanislavsky believed that an actor needed to take his or her own personality onto the stage when they began to play a character. […] Later Stanislavsky concerned himself with the creation of physical entries into these emotional states, believing that the repetition of certain acts and exercises could bridge the gap between life on and off the stage.

Subsequently, heavily influenced by Stanislavsky, actor and director Lee Strasberg interpreted his teacher’s philosophy for an American audience and emphasized affective memory—a key component of what is touted as method acting, or simply, the Method. As noted by Pamela Moller Kareman, the executive director of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City, the field was forever changed.

“Beginning way back with their interpretation of Stanislavsky, Americans have had a tremendous influence on the art of acting, internationally. What people [once] thought of as American acting is just acting today,” she says.

“Unfortunately, audiences have become a little impatient with stylized acting and now won’t even watch a black-and-white film because they think it’s boring, whereas it was stylized but very truthful. Take somebody like Quentin Tarantino—his are highly stylized films, and yet you still believe the behavior in them. It might be heightened, but it’s truthful.”

Neighborhood Playhouse teaches its students according to the principles of the Meisner Technique, an offshoot of Stanislavsky’s work developed by Sanford Meisner—a one-time friend and contemporary of Lee Strasberg. According to Kareman, the divide between the pair was that Strasberg was much more interested in actors working from their real lives and real pain, whereas Meisner thought that was “psychotherapy and had no place in acting.”

“Meisner thought that the biggest gift an actor has is his or her imagination, which is limitless, while one’s real life and real experiences were quite limited,” Kareman says.

“He also felt, and I agree with him, that you wouldn’t be able to go [to certain real-life experiences]. So, if you were ever in any way molested as a child, he never wanted you to use that it would be a very unhealthy thing. You might subconsciously be colored by that, but your imagination could bring up something else.”

Deborah Margolin also discourages the possible romanticizing of traumatic experiences for art saying, “I’ve gone to dark places in terms of the roles I’ve played, and I’ve also gone to dark places just living. There’s this whole thing about suffering for your art and I think that’s baloney. I tell my students not to worry about the suffering. Suffering will find you—seek the joy.”

Either way, deciding whether or not to design roles around personal experiences isn’t the all-or-nothing decision that it is for Dom Cobb. Many actors create their own methods, with some mix of immersion and personal history, while others include no trace of their lives. As Professor Goldstein sees it, though, either choice may result in some subtle effect on a performer.

Research on Authenticity

Considerable research supports the assertion that authentic functioning relates to positive psychological health and well-being, as well as to healthy interpersonal relationships. For example, researchers have found that authentic functioning relates to higher and more secure self-esteem, less depression, and healthier interpersonal relationships.


Considerable research demonstrates the benefits of possessing self-knowledge that is clear, internally consistent, and well integrated across one’s social roles. The same is true for being motivated to learn about oneself: The more one takes an open and nondefensive stance toward learning about oneself, the better one’s overall psychological functioning. Moreover, possessing substantial knowledge about one’s emotional states, for example, what makes one happy or sad, also confers considerable benefits toward one’s health and well-being. Importantly, learning about oneself is an ongoing process that continues throughout the life span.

Unbiased Processing

Processing positive and negative evaluative information in an objective manner allows individuals to gain accurate self-information that they can use to make well-informed decisions regarding their skills and abilities. In contrast, distorting information to exaggerate one’s positive qualities or minimize one’s negative qualities may feel good in the short run, but it is detrimental in the end. For example, research indicates that experts rate people as narcissistic and not well adjusted if they view themselves considerably more positively than others view them. Conversely, exaggerating negative self-relevant information or being overly self-critical increases one’s risk for depression and other psychological disorders.


Researchers have found that people who pursue goals that are congruent with their core self are less depressed, feel greater vitality and energy, and generally are more psychologically adjusted than are people who pursue goals that are not congruent with their core self. Thus, it is very important to consider why people adopt their goals. When people adopt goals because they are personally important, interesting, and fun, they are healthier than when they adopt goals because they feel pressured by others or because they want to avoid feeling guilty or anxious (signs that the goal is not fully congruent with the core self). In general, people whose behavior is consistent with who they really are and their central values are happier and healthier than people whose behavior is based primarily on attaining rewards or avoiding punishments.

Relational Orientation

Healthy close relationships involve trust and intimate self-disclosures. People vary in how willing or able they are to share their foibles and shortcomings with their relationship partners. Those whose close relationships involve reciprocal intimate self-disclosures are generally more satisfied with their relationships than are people whose close relationships involve more shallow or nonreciprocal self-disclosures. Research indicates that a major factor contributing to adolescents acting falsely (suppressing the expression of their true thoughts and feelings within those relationships) is that they perceive a lack of parental and peer approval. Likewise, adults who do not feel validated by their relationship partners tend to exhibit increased false-self behaviors within the relationship, which in turn accounts for their heightened feelings of depression and low self-esteem.

The Psychology of Racism

The psychology of racism can be summed up in one word: evolving. What was true in the 19th century is not true anymore. How society thinks about race and racism has changed. However, things haven't changed as much as some might have thought.

Most Americans were complacent going into the year 2020. When the coronavirus pandemic started, the complacency started to wane and was replaced with fear and a sense of unrest. When George Floyd died on May 25, 2020, it spun the world into a state of waking up to an uncomfortable reality: racism was still alive and well in America.

What Is Attribution Theory?

Attribution theory is defined as interpersonal attribution which means that when you tell a story about yourself, you tend to put yourself in a positive light.

Predictive attribution means that we attribute things in ways that allow us to make future predictions. For example, if you don't choose to eat breakfast, you may attribute the fact that you're overly hungry by lunchtime to the fact that you didn't eat anything earlier. That's an attribution that is likely true. As another example, if a teacher says that the class was unusually unruly and notices that there was also a full moon that evening, he or she may attribute their active behavior to changes in the universe. That may or may not be a true attribution, but it's one he or she believes is true.

Explanatory attribution helps us to better understand the world around us. We can take an optimistic approach to our circumstances or a pessimistic point of view. Attribution theory suggests that when we're optimistic, we attribute positive events to stable, internal, and global causes. At times when we're pessimistic, we tend to attribute negative events to internal, stable, and global causes and positive events to external, stable, and specific causes.

What Is Weiner's Theory of Attribution?

Bernard Weiner developed a theory of attribution which became highly influential in the field of social psychology. Weiner theorized that people try to determine why they do what they do. He identified the following three stages in how people attribute causes to an event or behavior:

  1. Behavior must be observed or perceived.
  2. The behavior must be determined to be intentional.
  3. Behavior is attributed to internal or external causes.

Weiner also connected his attribution theory to achievement. According to his theory, the most important factors that affect how we perceive our behavior are ability, effort, the difficulty of tasks, and just plain luck.

Also, Weiner believed that we attribute our actions to the following three causes:

Weiner theorized that if we succeed, internal forces were at work such as we have the necessary skill. When we see someone else succeed, we tend to attribute it to an external force such as luck or having the right circumstances. When he flipped the perspective, it looked quite the opposite.

When Weiner looked at our perspective of when we fail, we tend to attribute it to external forces or situational matters rather than take accountability. When we see someone else fail, we tend to attribute it to internal factors such as their personality or ability to make wise choices. This is also called fundamental attribution error, and some people refer to it as blaming the victim.

What Is Heider's Common Sense Theory?

Fritz Heider suggested that when we observe others, we analyze their behavior and find some common-sense explanation for their actions. He also grouped attributes into external and internal attributes to explain behaviors.

What Is Correspondent Inference Theory?

In 1965, Edward Jones and Keith Davis theorized that people make inferences about other people in cases where their actions were intentional rather than accidental. They believe that when we see others acting in certain ways, we look for some connection between the person's motives and their behavior. Jones and Davis attribute people's inferences based on the degree of choice, the degree they expect a certain behavior to occur, and the effects of the behavior.

What Does Social Psychology Have To Say About Attraction?

Most people are aware that they tend to gravitate towards the same types of people, but they're not sure why. Similarly, most people tend to gravitate away from certain types of people whose appearance, personality, or other factors don't appeal to them. Often, there isn't a rational explanation for this either.

Researchers within the field of social psychology have attempted to explain what attracts us to people that we like and appreciate having in our lives. The study of social psychology also has to do with what attracts us to our perfect mate, or at least who we think is our perfect date.

Our own beliefs play an important role in who we choose to spend our time with. Most people are also influenced by society, at least to some degree.

According to Nahemow and Lawton (1975), there are five reasons that we choose who we want to invite you to be close to us in our lives. They are proximity, association, similarity, reciprocal liking, and physical attractiveness. Let's take a closer look at how they arrived at these characteristics.

If you're like most people, most of your friends tend to live near you. If you've recently moved to a new geographical location, the majority of your friends probably still live where you lived during the time that you became friends and shared memories. Maybe you're still friends with someone you spent your childhood with.

This characteristic refers to the fact that we like to spend time with people who share a similar state. If you're the type of person who prefers to go out to movies rather than hang out in bars, you're likely to score points with others who are movie buffs. Those who know every bar in town will spend time enjoying cocktails on the town with others who enjoy doing the same thing.

We like people who think like us. Maybe you're conservative. Maybe you're a staunch liberal. Or, perhaps, you're more of an independent thinker. When it comes to big issues where there tend to be strong opinions, it's easier to be friends with people who share your views that to be arguing about a particular issue every time you get together.

Essentially, reciprocal liking means that we like people who like us back. It feels good to know that you impressed someone else just by being you. We tend to give people kudos for liking us, and that makes the connection stronger.

Physical attractiveness plays a role in who we choose to date or select as a mate. Physical attractiveness also plays a role in the friends we choose. That doesn't mean we always choose the buff guy or the drop-dead gorgeous woman. It simply means that we like to be around people that we consider to be physically attractive or those who we believe are similarly attractive to ourselves.

Biases In Social Psychology

Our personal opinions are colored by the experiences and relationships we've had in our lives. That's called bias. Having a bias for or against certain things, issues, or circumstances can cause us to judge others unfairly and make errors in judgment.

A self-serving bias means that we have a bias about whether we see ourselves in a positive or negative light. When we're successful or are feeling great about ourselves, as noted earlier, we tend to attribute our success to internal factors such as something we did that we're proud of. If we fail in some respect, we tend to protect our self-esteem by blaming some external force.

Attribution psychologists have also identified something called actor-observer bias which means that we're more likely to blame external forces for our behavior than personal characteristics. We tend to have more information about our situation than anyone else would, so we're clearer about what we can blame the situation on. When we observe our friends, we're likely to take their point of view because we're more aware of who they are as people and how they handle the situations around them.

On occasion, times of grief, unrest, or crises can throw us off course, causing us to act in ways that surprise us and everyone around us. Instead of worrying excessively about it, a psychologist or therapist at BetterHelp can assist you in understanding more about your behavior and how others react to you. Take some time to sort it all out with a qualified professional who can lead the way.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In social psychology, &ldquoAttribution theory deals with how the social perceiver uses information to arrive at causal explanations for events. It examines what information is gathered and how it is combined to form a causal judgment&rdquo. Is the formal definition provided by Fiske and Taylor (1991, p. 23) in Social Cognition.

There are two types of attribution: dispositional attribution and situational attribution. The attribution process requires a certain amount of observer bias.

With dispositional attribution the observer believes that the behavior of an individual is due to internal attributions or characteristics of a person. We believe that a person behaves the way that they do due to their personality traits or other dispositional factors. This is known as fundamental attribution error. This fundamental attribution error can lead us to make hasty and ill-informed judgements about people.

In situational attribution is when a person&rsquos behavior is assigned to an external attribution rather than an internal attribution. When it comes to our own undesirable behavior, we tend to blame situations or events outside of our control.

In attribution theory, there are quite a few different biases. One of the most common examples is the self-serving bias in which we tend to attribute successes to our own decisions and actions and we attribute negative events and behaviors to other outside forces.

See detailed answer below.

Outside of psychology, attribution is necessary in academic press releases and virtually all formal papers. It is important for legal reasons to attribute claims and sources when using them in your own research.

Attribution theory also helps us understand the stigma behind mental illness. When people act erratically due to their mental illness, the mental illness is not blamed, the person is. Even when the mental illness is obvious, the person themself is usually blamed by dispositional attribution by active observers.

There is no other word in psychology that specifically matches attribution.

This is also known as internal or dispositional attribution. The same judgements we make about others we tend to make about ourselves.

The Covariation model is the best-known attribution theory. According to this attribution theory, when people make judgements about people and try to determine the cause of their behavior, they act like scientists. In this attribution process they take a more explanatory style as to why people act the way they do.

In the covariation model, people make active observations and take three kinds of evidence into account:

  • Consensus: The extent in which others behave in the same way in the same situation. For example, if you and your friend both smoke then the consensus is high. If only you smoke, the consensus is low.
  • Distinctiveness: The extent to which that person behaves in similar situations. For example, if you only smoke when you go out to a bar, then your distinctiveness is high. If you smoke everywhere, your distinction is low.
  • Consistency: The extent to which a person behaves every time the situation occurs. For example, you have high consistency if you smoke when you go out with your friends. If you only smoke once during a birthday party, then consistency is low.

The covariation model is an attribution theory that can be applied to almost any situation or person.

There are many factors that affect attributions, including social, behavioral, and mental. See below for more information.

Attribution theory is important because it helps us to better understand social cognition, as well as understand why and what casual explanations people attribute to a person&rsquos behavior. Attribution theory is something that we all practice every day subconsciously based on the way people dress, carry themselves, or act in public.

This leads also to the correspondent inference theory. In the correspondent inference theory, five sources of information help us make a dispositional attribution about another person&rsquos behavior.

  • Choice: A behavior is believed to be freely chosen due to internal factors
  • Accidental vs. Intentional behavior: Intentional behavior is attributed to disposition whereas accidental behavior is attributed to situations.
  • Social Desirability: Non-conforming behaviors lead us to make dispositional attributes.
  • Hedonistic Relevance: A person&rsquos behavior seems to intentionally mean to benefit or harm us.
  • Personalism: If a person&rsquos behavior has affected us, we believe it to be personal regardless of the situation

Attribution theory helps us to better understand the psychology of interpersonal relations. In addition, correspondent inference theory helps us better understand the behaviors to acts to dispositions the attributions tend to bring out in people.

Attributions and citations are similar and both used in papers to give credit to and refer to a person or document. Citations are many used for scholarly papers whereas attributions are for legal documents. This is explained more here.

Is it true that acting can affect one's behavior? - Psychology

His study was intended to show how alcohol affects reaction time.

&ldquoEffect&rdquo as a noun. (Common usage) Something brought about a result. Example:

They discussed the effect of the law on children.

&ldquoEffect&rdquo as a noun. (Common usage) The way one thing acts upon another. Example:

The effect of the law has been to increase the use of alcohol.

&ldquoEffect&rdquo as a verb. (Not common, but acceptable in rare cases.) To produce a result to cause something to occur to bring about an outcome. Example:

Smith said the cutbacks were designed to effect basic economies for the company.

While correct in this case, is it really clear to all readers? A better alternative:

Smith said the cutbacks were designed to implement (make happen) basic economies for the company.
Smith said the cutbacks were designed to bring about (produce a result) basic economies for the company.

&ldquoAffect&rdquo as a noun. Forget it you're in journalism, not psychiatry (though you might wind up in therapy). “Affect” as a noun means an emotional state as contrasted to a cognition. &ldquoAffect&rdquo is a dimension of behavior rather than a separate segment of it. &ldquoAffect&rdquo is thus experienced at the same time that perception, performance and thought are going on. (See, I told you to forget it!) As for the second line of the headline at the top of this missive, “effect an affect” would mean to cause a certain affectation or trait to occur. In other words, acting, something Robert DeNiro does and Ben Affleck tries to do, but not as well.

A quick & easy guide
to &ldquoaffect&rdquo and &ldquoeffect&rdquo

I t's easy to get caught up in a debate about the subtle shades of meaning for the words &ldquoaffect&rdquo and &ldquoeffect.&rdquo Such debates waste time and energy. So it is useful to sharpen your understanding so that with a minimum of thought you can make a good editing decision when you encounter one of these words. The following thoughts are intended to help equip you for such.

1. Determine if the usage calls for a verb or a noun.

2. If a verb is needed, 95 percent of the time or more the word you want is &ldquoaffect.&rdquo It means to change or to alter. &ldquoThe weather affects our moods.&rdquo &ldquoNutrition affects health.&rdquo &ldquoThe seasons affect trees and flowers.&rdquo “The quality of your work affects your grade.”

3. The occasional need for &ldquoeffect&rdquo as a verb arises when the narrow meaning “to cause or to bring about” is appropriate. These rare occasions often occur in some form of the expression “to effect a change” or, in police jargon, &ldquoto effect an arrest&rdquo (to cause or make an arrest happen). Nevertheless, it&rsquos still best to avoid, particularly in the last example because it&rsquos simply police jargon, and it's good to avoid jargon.

4. When a noun is required, the word is almost always &ldquoeffect.&rdquo This means “a result.”&ldquoThe effect of diligent study habits is better learning.&rdquo “The effect of making the correct choice is a better grade.” (Do you sense a theme here?)

5. &ldquoAffect&rdquo can be a noun, but its use is almost entirely reserved for psychological jargon. You could have a long career as a writer and editor and never encounter the need for the noun &ldquoaffect.&rdquo