Objective self-attention

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In psychology, Objective Self-Attention (OSA) characterizes the state of the “actor as observer”


Objective self-attention is based on the following assumptions:

  • An individual’s attention can be focused on external events or on the individual himself.
Mirrors, cameras, the audition of one’s own voice, or similar environmental stimuli that suggest observation can trigger a state of objective self-attention.
  • In the state of objective self-attention, the individual pays attention to own behavior and moods and standards. In the event of a discrepancy between behavior and standards, a motive for discrepancy reduction arises by means of:
    • Behaviour change
    • Defensive reaction (denial …)
  • Aversive stimulus conditions for objective self-attention are avoided.


In an experiment by Pryor et al. (1977), subjects completed a sociability scale with items such as “I feel that I communicate well with members of the opposite sex.” or “I enjoy making acquaintances with other people.”

Then they were placed in a waiting situation together with an assistant of the experimenter. After the waiting time, the assistant rated the subjects with the same items with which the subjects had described themselves.

When subjects completed the sociability scale in a room with a mirror, there was a significantly higher correlation of the two ratings. In addition, the self-rating was compared with the words spoken during the waiting period; here too, the presence of a mirror increased the correlation of self-rating and behavior.


  • Duval, S. & Wicklund, R.A. (1972). A theory of objective self-awareness. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0122256506
  • Wicklund, R.A. & Frey, D. (1993). The theory of self-attention. In D. Frey & M.Irle(Eds.), Theories of social psychology. Vol. I(pp. 155-173). Bern: Huber. ISBN 3456820380
  • Pryor, J.B., Gibbons, F., & Wicklund R.A. (1977). Self-focused attention and self-report validity. Journal of Personality, 45, 513-527.
  • Snyder, M. (1972). Self-monitoring of expressive behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 526-527.
  • Snyder, M. (1987). Public appearance, private realities: The psychology of self-monitoring. New York: Freeman. ISBN 0716717980
  • Mielke, R. & Kilian, R. (1990). When subscales do not add up to what the total scale is supposed to capture. Investigations into the self-monitoring concept. Journal of Social Psychology, 21, 126-135.

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