Self Discrepancy Theory

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Self Discrepancy Theory

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The Self-Discrepancy Theory

If it is, the observer is likely to give the behavior an external attribution. If this action is not unique, it will probably be judged as internal. Consequently, if the employee who arrived late to work today is also the person that colleagues see as lazy, we are likely to judge the behavior resuming work late as internally caused. If everyone who is faced with a similar situation responds in the same way, we can say the behavior shows consensus. The more consistent the behavior, the more the observer is inclined to attribute it to internal causes.

The Figure below summarises the key elements in attribution theory. Interestingly, findings drawn from attribution theory show that errors or biases can distort attributions. For instance, substantial evidence supports the hypothesis that, when we make judgments about the behavior of other people, we have a tendency to underestimate the influence of external factors and overestimate the influence of internal or personal factors. This fundamental attribution error can explain why a sales manager may be prone to attribute the poor performance of her sales agents to laziness rather than to the innovative product line introduced by a competitor. Individuals also tend to attribute their own successes to internal factors such as ability or effort while putting the blame for failure on external factors such as luck.

This self-serving bias suggests that feedback provided to employees in performance reviews will be predictably distorted by them, whether it is positive or negative. Perceptual shortcuts can also distort attributions. All of us, managers included, use a number of shortcuts to judge others. Perceptual shortcuts can be valuable as they let us make accurate perceptions quickly and provide valid data for making predictions. They can and do get us into trouble. They absorb bits and pieces. People who assume that others are like them can, of course, be right, but not always. When we judge someone on the basis of our perception of a group they are part of, we are using the shortcut called stereotyping.

What fills in the gaps between our impressions, thus creating the illusion of continuous conscious experiences, are the relations that the imagination imposes on our impressions to make them intelligible. We think that we are engaged in the activity of playing fetch with our dog because our impressions of our dog bear the relation of resemblance to one another and seem to be connected in a causal sequence: I throw the ball, the dog sees the ball, fetches the ball, and returns it. The relations of similarity and causation are imposed on the impressions by the imagination, they cannot be found in the impressions themselves.

The imagination is like a movie reel that connects a series of pictures. If you slow the movie down, you lose the sense of observing a scene. It is our memory that makes it possible for our imagination to impose the relations of resemblance and causation on our impressions. I can notice that the impression I have of my dog right now resembles the impression of my dog five seconds ago only if I can recall what my dog looked like five seconds ago. Similarly, I can interpret the series of my impressions as being connected in a causal sequence only if they can be recalled. Locke and Hume agree on this much. The notion of identity whether personal, biological, or material is a useful grammatical convention that we use to describe and understand the series of our ever-changing sense-impressions, though in reality, it cannot be found in any of our impressions, and therefore, does not constitute a legitimate idea concept.

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Tutor and Freelance Writer. Science Teacher and Lover of Essays. Article last reviewed: St. Skip to content. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception. Hume: Critique of the Belief in Miracles. Find out More. What is a Self? Color Theory What is color?

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