Moderated consistency between direct, indirect, and behavioral indicators of dispositions
Traits are useful as descriptive personality constructs to the extent that individual differences in behavior and other indicators, such as physiological reactions, are consistent across equivalent situations and stable across time. Whether and how well this assumption is met has been a matter of repeated controversy in the history of personality psychology and attitude research (Kenrick & Funder, 1988; Schmitt, 1990). The first controversy in the 1930s was initiated by research on the cross-situational consistency of moral behavior (Hartshorne & May, 1928) and by LaPierre’s (1934) study on attitude-behavior consistency. The second debate occurred due to Deutscher’s (1966) review of the consistency between words and deeds, Mischel’s (1968) review of the predictive validity of personality and achievement measures, and Wicker’s (1969) review of attitude-behavior consistency.
Both controversies followed a characteristic sequence of arguments and studies. First, the degree of consistency was debated, especially the degree of behavioral consistency across situations, and the predictability of behavior from trait measures (the “how much” question). Second, boundary conditions of consistency were proposed and identified empirically (the “when” question). Finally, elaborate theoretical ideas were proposed for explaining person-situation interactions and subjected to targeted empirical tests (the “why” question; Kenrick & Funder, 1988; Schmitt, 1990; Swann & Seyle, 2005).
Perhaps one of the most important results of both controversies was the recognition that consistency is not a constant but a variable (Baumeister & Tice, 1988; Chaplin, 1991; Fiske & Rice, 1955; Schmitt, 1990; Snyder & Ickes, 1985). As a consequence of this insight, the theory-guided identification of moderators of consistency became an important goal for personality and attitude research.
Recently, the consistency issue has been revived due to the low consistency that was found in many studies between (a) direct self-report measures of attitudes and personality traits and (b) indirect measures, such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998). Our program of research and ongoing theoretical development are devoted to understanding this finding based on theoretical and methodological insights as well as on empirical findings that were the result of earlier consistency controversies. With the assumption that consistency is a variable, our thinking and research are guided by the goal of identifying those moderator variables that shape consistency.
We began with a systematic analysis of the literature on implicit-explicit consistency and a meta-analysis of available findings (Hofmann, Gawronski, Gschwendner, Le, & Schmitt, 2005). This meta-analysis was limited to the IAT because, at the beginning of our literature review in 2002, IAT measures were by far the most-often used indirect measures in studies on implicit-explicit consistency. Based on a sample of 126 studies, we obtained a mean correlation between direct and indirect (IAT) measures for the same construct of .24, with approximately half of the variability across correlations attributable to the moderator variables that we were able to consider. Correlations systematically increased as a function of (a) increasing spontaneity of self-reports and (b) increasing conceptual correspondence between measures. These results suggest that direct and indirect measures are systematically related, but that higher-order inferences and lack of conceptual correspondence can reduce the convergence of automatic associations and explicit self-reports.
A moderated consistency model for implicit, explicit, and behavioral indicators of latent dispositions
Next, we developed a theoretical model that could account for the systematic variability in implicit-explicit consistency that was identified by our meta-analysis and in narrative reviews conducted by ourselves and other authors (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2006a; Hofmann, Gschwendner, Nosek, & Schmitt, 2005; Nosek, 2005, 2007). Based on theoretical advances and new findings, our model was refined in several steps (Hofmann, Gschwendner, Nosek, & Schmitt, 2005; Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2006a, 2006b).
Consistent with a predominant view in the current literature, the model assumes two types of mental representations of latent dispositions such as attitudes, personality traits, motives, self-concept dimensions, self-esteem, and beliefs: Explicit dispositions are assumed to be represented in a propositional format (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006), introspectively accessible, and measurable via direct self-report. Explicit dispositions serve as a self-knowledge base for deliberate thinking and reasoned judgment. Implicit dispositions are assumed to be stored in an associative format as object-attribute links (e.g., me – anxious; spiders - disgusting). These associations are unconscious and introspectively opaque. Implicit dispositions provide the knowledge base for quick evaluations and intuitive judgments that occur outside a person’s conscious awareness. This is why implicit dispositions can be measured only indirectly. In line with dual-process models (Smith & DeCoster, 2000; Strack & Deutsch, 2004), we assume that explicit dispositions feed into reasoned action based on the controlled processing of relevant information, such as the anticipation of consequences that a certain behavior will have. In contrast, implicit dispositions are assumed to affect behavior automatically via approach and avoidance impulses and the activation of behavioral schemata or scripts.
The most recent version of our model is depicted in the Figure below. It differs slightly in terminology from previous versions of the model (Hofmann, Gschwendner, Nosek, & Schmitt, 2005; Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2006a). Unlike these earlier versions, the current model includes behavior in addition to direct and indirect measures. Behavior was added because the consistency issue is not limited to direct and indirect measures of dispositions, but rather encompasses all sorts of relevant indicators, including overt behavior. Moreover, overt behavior is often considered to be the ultimate criterion for the usefulness of a construct and the validity of measures. This is especially true for new constructs, such as implicit constructs, and new measures, such as the IAT (Greenwald, Poehlman, Uhlmann, & Banaji, in press). Finally, the current model differs from an earlier version of the model (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2006b) in that it differentiates between manifest behavior, behavioral plans and intentions, and behavioral schemata or scripts. In line with action theories, such as the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1987), we assume that behavioral plans and intentions mediate the effect of explicit dispositions on manifest behavior. Further, and in line with the Reflective Impulsive Model (RIM) proposed by Strack and Deutsch (2004), we assume that behavioral schemata and scripts mediate the effect of implicit dispositions on manifest behavior.
The model specifies nine effects (depicted as single-headed arrows) and three correlations (depicted as double-headed arrows). Most importantly, from our primary research interest, it is assumed that the size of all effects and correlations can depend on moderator variables. Moreover, we deem it likely that the size of each effect and correlation depends on more than one moderator. For this reason, moderators were combined into groups in the model. Each moderator group contains several factors, including personality traits or characteristics of the situation, in which measurement or behavior occurs. Moderator groups also include attributes of the construct at issue, such as the social desirability of a personality trait or an attitude, and attributes of their indicators, such as the degree of controllability (versus automaticity) of a specific behavior, or the reliability of a measure. These differentiations between types of moderators are not included in the model in order to keep it principled and parsimonious. The model also does not specify joint moderator effects. We assume, for instance, that functionally equivalent moderators, such as the chronic and acute activation of associations, will moderate the effect of implicit dispositions on indirect measures jointly in a synergistic fashion (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2006; 2008).
It is important to understand that implicit-explicit consistency cannot be observed directly on the level of constructs (circular frames in the model), but only on the level of manifest indicators (rectangular frames in the model). Note that most moderators are assumed to affect causal links between latent constructs (A, B, C, D) and the effects of these latent constructs on their manifest indicators (E, F, G, H). These assumptions cannot be tested directly. Only their implications on the correlations among the manifest indicators can be tested. This is not a specific limitation of our model, but rather an implied limitation of any latent variable model.
Note next that although the model contains a substantial number of variables and paths, it is still a simplification. This is especially true for the moderators of the model. First, moderators are not specified as separate variables, but are only summarized as groups. Second, moderators are constructs that either need to be measured (personality factors) or varied experimentally (properties of the situation, the behavior, and the measures). Thus, a more complete version of the model would have to include latent and manifest moderator variables and, in addition, possible interactions between them. These details are not included in the model in order to keep it general and flexible. Thus the model is not a detailed effect model for a specific disposition, but a theoretical framework that can be applied to large variety of dispositions.
We will first briefly describe the nine causal paths that are numbered accordingly in the Figure.
1. In line with other authors, we assume that object-attribute associations form the elementary basis of propositional thinking and explicit self-knowledge (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006; Strack & Deutsch, 2004). This assumption is represented by the causal path from the implicit to the explicit disposition (Path 1).
2. Propositional thinking may in turn shape the structure of the underlying associative representations (Strack & Deutsch, 2004). Autosuggestion and self-instruction are examples. In the domain of attitudes, the intentional imagination of counter-attitudinal exemplars can weaken previous associations between attitude objects and values. The same process can lead to changes in implicit stereotypes, implicit self-esteem, and implicit self-concept (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006). This type of process is represented in the model by a causal path from the explicit disposition to the implicit disposition (Path 2).
3. Explicit dispositions are assumed to cause behavior. This assumption is consistent with results from a vast number of studies showing that behavior can be predicted from personality factors, attitudes, self-concept dimensions, motive traits, self-esteem, and beliefs. In line with action theories, such as the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1987), and also in line with dual process theories such as the RIM (Strack & Deutsch, 2004), we assume that explicit dispositions do not affect behavior directly, but rather indirectly via action plans and behavioral intentions (Path 3). People reason about the benefits and costs of the behavioral options they consider, and depending on these and other factors, they make choices. The preferred choice is turned into a behavioral intention. Moreover, many goals require sequences of behavioral steps. These need to be designed and represented mentally as action plans.
4. Implicit dispositions are also assumed to cause behavior. Although this assumption has been tested much less often than the previous one, a recent review provides clear evidence in support of Path 4 of our model (Greenwald, Poehlman, Uhlmann, & Banaji, in press). In line with dual process models such as the RIM (Strack & Deutsch, 2004), we assume that implicit dispositions do not feed directly into behavior, but via behavioral schemata or scripts instead. More specifically, it is assumed that the activation of object-attribute links automatically co-activates behavioral schemata or scripts.
5. Path 5 represents a common notion of all latent trait theories. It is assumed in these theories that self-reports represent a specific form of behavior that is causally determined by the knowledge that people have about their traits. Moreover, it is assumed that the process that transforms the explicit disposition into self-reports is a conscious and controlled process similar to the formation of intentions and behavioral plans that precede behavior (Path 3).
6. Accordingly, Path 6 of our model represents the assumption that implicit dispositions cause the behavior that people show in indirect measurement procedures such as the IAT.
7. Path 7 reflects a common notion of action theories that behavior is the controlled execution of previously-formed plans and intentions (Ajzen, 1987).
8. Path 8 reflects the core assumption of dual process theories such as the RIM (Strack & Deutsch, 2004) that activated behavioral schemata feed automatically into behavior without conscious awareness.
9. Path 9 was derived from self-observation theory (Bem, 1972). Behavior is never entirely consistent with explicit dispositions because it is jointly determined by controlled and automatic processes. People are able to detect inconsistencies between their explicit dispositions and their behavior. Such inconsistencies generate cognitive dissonance that needs to be resolved. Changing explicit assumptions about the self is one way of dissolving such inconsistencies. Because this process is more likely to occur in cases where behavior was driven automatically, it may be an important route by which implicit associations feed into explicit self-knowledge (cf. Hofmann, Gschwendner, Nosek & Schmitt, 2005).
We will now turn to moderators that affect the strength of these paths and, in addition, the size of the correlations between direct, indirect, and behavioral indicators of a disposition.
Moderator Group A: Explicit self-knowledge can draw upon implicit self-knowledge to the extent that implicit self-knowledge is accessible. The accessibility of associations depends on their strength. Several studies have shown, for instance, that strong attitudes are more accessible than weak attitudes (Petty & Krosnick, 1995). Compared to weak object-value associations, strong associations should feed more easily into explicit self-knowledge. Support for this assumption comes from a study by Nosek (2005). The notion of associative strength can be generalized from attitudes to other dispositions such as stereotypes, personality traits, and self-concepts because these dispositions are also represented as associations between objects and attributes. A second important moderator is awareness. People differ in their motivation and ability to introspect (Fenigstein, Scheier, & Buss, 1975). The strength of Path 1 of our model should vary accordingly (cf. Hofmann, Gschwendner, Nosek, & Schmitt, 2005).
Moderator Group B: Auto-suggestion, self-instruction, and selective exposure to object-attribute combinations contribute to the translation of elaborate assumptions about the self into simpler representations of self-knowledge. Again, the effectiveness of this process should depend on motivational factors and on abilities. People who dislike their impulsive reactions to certain objects, such as certain kinds of food, sometimes consciously engage in counter-impulsive auto-suggestions. People who dislike their attitudes / stereotypes / self-concept can engage in intentional imagination of counter-attitudinal exemplars of these attitudes / stereotypes / self-concept. The effectiveness of this process will depend on knowledge about the underlying psychological principle, on motivational strength, and probably also on personality factors such as self-control and openness to experience.
Moderator Group C: Making plans requires both the motivation and the opportunity to deliberate about relevant information. Both can vary depending on stable individual differences between people and as a function of situational factors. If people have no time to deliberate, they cannot make plans. Further, making plans and carefully considering the pros and cons of various behavioral alternatives requires cognitive capacity and ability. More generally, all factors that contribute to the availability and usability of control resources will affect Path 3. In addition, some people rely more on intuition than on deliberation (Betsch, 2004; Epstein, Pacini, Denes-Raj, & Heier, 1996) and this will also contribute to how carefully action plans are made on the basis of relevant information. In the domain of attitudes, people may know that they hold negative attitudes that are politically incorrect. To the extent that they are motivated to control prejudiced reactions (Dunton & Fazio 1997), they will refrain from translating their attitudes into consistent behavioral intentions. Additional moderators in this group are reviewed by Friese, Hofmann, and Schmitt (in press).
Moderator Group D: The strength with which behavioral schemata are activated in a specific situation depends on how closely they are linked with objects. This in turn will depend on how often both have been activated simultaneously during the person’s learning history. Social learning and modeling may play an important role here. Consider a person who holds negative attitudes toward strangers and who repeatedly observes how peers with the same negative attitude treat strangers. Very likely, this person will not only develop a behavioral script vis à vis strangers, but will also develop an associative link between the attitude object “stranger” and this script (Castelli, De Dea, & Nesdale, 2008).
Moderator Group E: People are not always willing to disclose their self-knowledge honestly. Rather, they tend to adjust self-reports to personal goals. Pervasive motivational sources of these goals are self-presentation, social desirability, and impression management. The strength of these motives varies across individuals, across dispositions, and across the measurement context. For instance, some individuals are more motivated than others to control prejudiced reactions (Dunton & Fazio 1997), and several studies have confirmed that this moderator indeed affects the validity of self-reports (for a summary see Hofmann, Gschwendner, Nosek, & Schmitt, 2005). Furthermore, some situations will more likely trigger adjustment processes than others. Anonymous self-reports of socially undesirable attitudes, stereotypes, beliefs, motives, and personality traits are more valid than public self-reports on the same dispositions.
Moderator Group F: Indirect procedures such as the IAT are intended to measure behavior that is driven automatically by the activation of object-attribute associations. It follows directly from this assumption that the validity of such measures depends on the accessibility of the association at issue. This in turn depends on the strength of the relevant associations and thus the person’s learning history. In addition, the validity of measures for object-attribute associations will vary depending on how strongly these associations have been pre-activated and how strongly they are activated by the measurement procedure itself (Blair, 2002). Pre-activation can be achieved via priming. Moreover, measurement procedures differ in how strongly they activate associated concepts. For instance, embedding object-stimuli in a congruent context can promote activation, and thus increase the validity of the indirect measure (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2008a).
Moderator Group G: Action plans and behavioral intentions are not transformed automatically into behavior or chains of behavioral steps. Rather, they require self-regulation. Self-regulation consists of self-monitoring and self-management strategies such as the adjustment of one’s behavior if goal discrepancy is beyond an acceptable limit. Self-monitoring (Snyder, 1974) and self-management abilities such as self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977) vary between individuals. In addition, self-regulation requires the availability (opportunity) and willingness to invest (motivation) control resources. In line with this reasoning, chronic and acute control resources have been shown to influence the relative weight of explicit and implicit dispositions on behavior (Hofmann, Gschwendner, Castelli, & Schmitt, 2008; Hofmann, Gschwendner, Wiers, Friese & Schmitt, 2008).
Moderator Group H: Behavioral schemata and scripts feed automatically into behavior depending on how strongly they are linked with the behavioral object, how strongly they are activated, and how much they are overridden by controlled processes. The first factor depends on the person’s learning history (cf. Moderator Group D). The second moderator is a function of time. Activation fades away quickly, and therefore, schemata will affect behavior automatically only if it follows in a short amount of time. Whether and to what extent controlled processes override impulses depends on the moderators from Group G. The person’s primary reliance on deliberation versus intuition (cf. Moderator Group C) may also contribute to a moderator effect at this point.
Moderator Group I: Our model assumes that the self-observation of behavior will feed back into explicit self-knowledge, especially if behavior was not consistent with previously held assumptions about the self. Inconsistencies are more likely to occur to the extent that behavior was driven by implicit associations and behavioral schemata linked with these associations. This is more likely for behaviors that are difficult to control such as certain kinds of nonverbal behavior (Asendorpf, Banse, & Mücke, 2002). We assume that the feed-back effect will be stronger for people who are willing and able to self-observe and who are capable of interpreting their behavior adequately. Ability and willingness to self-observe varies with self-monitoring (Snyder, 1974) and private self-consciousness (Fenigstein, Scheier, & Buss, 1975). The ability to decode behavioral cues varies between individuals (Hefter, Manoach, & Barton, 2005). Moreover, it can be trained (Ekman & Friesen, 1978). Furthermore, the self-observation of behavior requires the opportunity to do so and this opportunity in turn may vary between social contexts and situations. Finally, people differ in their need for consistency and their tolerance for ambiguity. Compared to people with a high need for consistency and a low tolerance for ambiguity, those with a low consistency need and a high ambiguity tolerance will not be as motivated to support their explicit self-assumptions with the appropriate self-observed behavior.
Moderator Group J: The strengths of all direct and moderator effects we have mentioned thus far will, by implication, affect the correlations between direct measures, indirect measures, and behavior. In addition, the convergence of these indicators will depend on features of the measurement instruments that are known to affect the size of correlations. Important examples of these factors are the reliability and the symmetry of the measure in terms of content and specificity. For instance, the correlation between indirect and direct measures that capture different facets of a construct will be lower than the correlation between two such measures that capture the same facets (Schmitt & Borkenau, 1992). This moderator is very relevant because the kinds of behavior that have typically been used in studies of predictive validity often do not match in content and specificity with the measures that are employed for their prediction. This has been a repeated issue in research on attitude-behavior consistency (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1977). One of our recent studies shows that the degree of similarity in content and specificity systematically moderates the convergence among direct, indirect, and behavioral indicators of dispositions (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, in press).
Empirical test of the moderated consistency model
Our model has not been tested in its entire complexity. However, many of the assumed moderator effects have been investigated in our own research and studies by others. The available evidence has been summarized by us in three narrative reviews (Friese, Hofmann & Schmitt, in press; Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2006a; Hofmann, Gschwendner, Nosek, & Schmitt, 2005). We will now briefly summarize our own empirical research.
Joint moderator effects of individual differences in awareness and adjustment
Our first empirical study (Hofmann, Gschwendner, & Schmitt, 2005) addressed moderators from Group A (awareness) and Group E (adjustment). In two experiments on attitudes of West Germans toward East Germans and Turks, a number of dispositional moderators pertaining to awareness and adjustment were tested. Concerning moderators affecting awareness, no reliable first-order effects were found for Private Self-Consciousness or Attitudinal Self-Knowledge. However, Attitude Importance generated the expected effect. Concerning the influence of moderators on adjustment, consistent effects were obtained for Motivation to Control Prejudiced Reactions. Social Desirability and Self-Monitoring did not moderate the implicit–explicit relationship in the expected direction. Some evidence was found for a second-order moderator effect between awareness and adjustment, suggesting that adjustment effects may be more pronounced under conditions of high awareness.
Synergistic moderator effects of person and situation factors of awareness and adjustment
As the next step, again using attitudes of Germans toward Turks as an application of our model, the previous study was extended by manipulating moderators of awareness (Group A) and adjustment (Group E) experimentally, in addition to measuring individual differences in these moderators (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2006c). Besides including experimentally manipulated moderators, this study differed from the previous one in that some moderator constructs from Groups A and E were replaced or measured with better measures. Results were as follows. Concerning moderators of adjustment, no effects on explicit-implicit consistency were obtained for situational variables. The expected synergistic interaction of personal and situational variables was also not significant. However, concerning moderators of awareness, a reliable first-order effect was found for Private Self-Consciousness. Moreover, Private Self-Consciousness and experimentally manipulated motivation to introspect showed the assumed synergistic interaction moderator effect.
The effects of acute and chronic construct accessibility on the temporal stability of the IAT
Another study was devoted to Moderator Group F (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2008). We tested the assumption that the validity, and thus the temporal stability, of indirect measures increases with the accessibility of the associated concepts during the measurement process. Adopting a procedure employed by Wittenbrink, Judd, and Park (2001), accessibility was manipulated experimentally by including or not including background pictures in the IAT. In Study 1, the 2-week stability of an IAT assessing anxiety was higher when IAT stimuli were embedded in an anxiety-relevant background (e.g., a snake). In Study 2, this context effect could be replicated in the domain of racial attitudes. Moreover, the context effect in Study 2 was especially pronounced for participants with high chronic access to the relevant concept.
The moderating role of situationally available control resources
Another study (Hofmann, Gschwendner, Castelli, & Schmitt, 2008) tested the assumption that control resources have an effect on how strongly explicit and implicit dispositions determine behavior (Moderator Groups C, D, G, H). More specifically, we investigated how implicit attitudes (Implicit Association Test) and explicit attitudes (Blatant/Subtle prejudice) were related to interracial interaction behaviors of Italians toward an African interviewer (Study 1) and of Germans toward a Turkish interviewer (Study 2). For half of the interview questions, participants’ control resources were reduced via a memory task. Across both studies, the Race IAT was more predictive of behavior when participants were mentally taxed than when untaxed. Conversely, explicit attitudes were somewhat more predictive under full resources. Taken together, our findings suggest that available control resources moderate the predictive validity of implicit and explicit attitudes (for similar findings, see Hofmann, Gawronski, & Rauch, 2007).
The moderating role of chronically available control resources
Next, we (Hofmann, Gschwendner, Friese, Wiers, & Schmitt, 2008) tested whether chronically available control resources have the same effect that we had predicted and found for situationally available control resources. Results were fully consistent with our expectations. In two studies on sexual interest behavior (Study 1) and the consumption of tempting food (Study 2), automatic attitudes toward the temptation of interest had a stronger influence on behavior for individuals who scored low rather than high in working memory capacity. Analogous results emerged in Study 3 on anger expression in a provoking situation when a measure of the automatic personality trait of angriness was employed. Conversely, controlled dispositions such as explicit attitudes (Study 1) and self-regulatory goals (Studies 2 and 3) were more effective in guiding behavior for participants who scored high rather than low in working memory capacity.
The moderating effect of content and specificity similarity on the consistency of direct, indirect, and behavioral construct measures
Our next study looked at two moderators from Group J: content and specificity similarity (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2008b). In the first session, different general and specific anxiety measures were administered, among them an IAT for general anxiety, an IAT for spider anxiety and an IAT assessing speech anxiety. In the second session, participants had to deliver a speech. Behavioral indicators of speech anxiety were measured. Results showed, in line with the moderator hypotheses, that (a) implicit and explicit anxiety measures correlated significantly only on the same specification level and if they measured the same content, and (b) specific speech anxiety measures best predicted concrete anxious behavior.
Self-perception of automatic behavior as a potential source of implict-explicit consistency
Hofmann, Gschwendner, and Schmitt (under review) tested Path 9 of our model. Showing that the self-perception of automatic behavior feeds back into explicit self-knowledge and thus contributes to implicit-explicit consistency is a necessary prerequisite for exploring moderators of such a process. This is true because only ordinal moderator effects seem plausible. Ordinal moderator effects imply a main effect of the independent variable (in this case: automatic behavior) on the dependent variable (in this case: explicit assumptions about the self). So far, we have not been able to demonstrate the assumed self-perception effect. However, we were able to show that the automatic behavior of a target person affects explicit judgments about the target person in neutral observers, demonstrating both cue validity (implicit dispositions cause automatic nonverbal behavior) and cue utilization (explicit dispositions can be inferred from nonverbal behavioral cues). Across three studies in the domains of extraversion and anxiety, we consistently obtained reliable cue validity and cue utilization for neutral observers but not for self-perceivers. An additional measure of state inferences in Study 2 showed that one reason for the lack of the assumed self-perception effects among self-perceivers is their reluctance to use their state inferences as a basis for more general trait inferences. It seems that people have a “blind spot” with respect to the nonverbal behavioral manifestations of their unconscious selves, even though neutral observers may readily detect and utilize this information for dispositional inferences.
Our current research follows three lines.
Explicit and implicit disgust sensitivity and disgust behavior
For human beings, automatic information processing and impulsive behavior are adaptive capacities because they require very few cognitive resources and occur very fast. The cost of these advantages is the lack of behavioral flexibility. This cost seems irrelevant in situations that are potentially dangerous. In line with this reasoning, implicit anxiety has been shown to be a powerful predictor of anxious behavior (Egloff & Schmukle, 2002; Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, in press). Besides anxiety, disgust is another emotion that serves survival. For this reason, and because disgust, unlike anxiety, is an under-researched emotion, we currently apply our model to disgust sensitivity and disgust behavior. We want to replicate some of the moderator effects that we were able to demonstrate in the previous studies. We are especially interested in using disgust to test Path 9 of our model again, and to test for potential moderators of this path (Moderator Group I). Disgust seems a suitable domain for this purpose because disgust behavior contains automatic components such as facial expression and rapid withdrawal from a disgusting object. Extending previous attempts to demonstrate Path 9, our current research includes more moderators from Group I.
Explicit-implicit consistency as an independent variable
Like most other research, our own research has treated implicit-explicit consistency as a dependent variable. Our model seeks to explain why the consistency of direct and indirect measures for explicit and implicit dispositions varies across individuals, situations, dispositions, and measures. Explicit-implicit consistency may not only be the result of information processing, but also affect information processing, behavior, and long-term outcomes. Research in the self-esteem domain may illustrate the point. Some studies have shown that various combinations of high versus low explicit versus implicit self-esteem are associated with different outcomes (Schröder-Abé, Rudolph, & Schütz, 2007; Schröder-Abé, Rudolph, Wiesner, & Schütz, 2007). More specifically, implicit-explicit self-esteem discrepancies seem to make people vulnerable to threatening information about the self.
We continue with this line of research in the domain of the intelligence self-concept. First, we are interested in exploring whether or not the implicit intelligence self-concept is related to a person’s performance in an objective intelligence test. Whereas several studies have shown that peoples’ explicit intelligence self-concept is highly correlated with their objective performance, no study has yet tested whether people also have an implicit knowledge of their intelligence. It is also yet unknown whether the explicit and implicit intelligence self-concepts exhibit consistency or not, and whether the implicit intelligence self-concept has a unique overlap with objective performance in intelligence tests.
Second, we are interested in exploring effects of explicit-implicit consistency on the processing of self-relevant information. More specifically, we want to determine whether a discrepant self-concept renders a person more susceptible to (false) feedback on objective performance.
Objective personality tests
Cattell (1957) proposed three kinds of data for measuring personality: Q-data (questionnaire data), L-data (life-data, often obtained from observers), and T-data (test data). Measuring personality traits with objective tests is attractive because, unlike self-reports, behavior from objective tests cannot be easily distorted to meet self-presentational motives. Despite the enormous energy that Cattell and his students invested in developing objective personality tests, most of the results from their impressive research program were rather disappointing. Q-data and T-data converged so poorly that it became admissible to assume that personality tests measure different personality traits than do personality questionnaires. Since Cattell’s research program on objective personality testing came to a halt, much progress has been made in understanding the many explanations for the low consistencies among various indicators of the same construct (see above). Given that the consistency issue from objective personality research is identical in principle with other types of consistencies, such as implicit-explicit consistency, it seems worthwhile to apply our model to the domain of objective personality tests. This is easily possible if we substitute “objective personality test behavior” for “behavior” in our model (Gschwendner, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2006b). We are currently planning a series of studies intended to test whether the proposed application of our model to objective personality tests will help in understanding the reasons for the low convergence between Q-data and T-data in previous research. We speculate that the systematic inclusion of moderator variables will teach us some of these reasons. Risk propensity is the first behavioral domain we want to look at.
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