Self-knowledge and social inference: I. The impact of cognitive/affective and behavioral data

Susan M. Andersen, Lee Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two studies investigated the sources of information that people would perceive as diagnostic of self. In Study 1, 40 undergraduates completed a questionnaire in which they rated private thoughts and feelings, other peoples' as well as their own, as far more informative and prototypic of self than overt actions. In Study 2, 48 undergraduate speakers participated in a structured interview during which they revealed either a sample of their past thoughts and feelings, a sample of their past behavior, or a mixture of these 2 types of information to 71 undergraduate observers who watched and listened from behind a 1-way mirror. The interviews offering cognitive/affective revelations were perceived, both by the speakers themselves and by observers, to be more informative than interviews offering behavioral revelations. Analyses from both studies, however, suggest that the tendency to weight cognitive/affective information more heavily than behavioral information may be stronger and more consistent for self-perception than social perception. Study 2, in particular, indicates that speakers made more extreme dispositional inferences based on cognitive/affective interviews, whereas observers did not. Ratings of interpersonal liking closely paralleled ratings of perceived informativeness for the questionnaire responses in Study 1 but not for the responses to explicit revelations of thoughts and feeling vs behavior in Study 2. Sex differences were also observed on several measures. (38 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-293
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1984


  • cognitive/affective vs behavioral information in interviews, social &
  • self perception, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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