Self-concept clarity and efficient processing
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These studies investigated how individual differences in self-concept clarity affected the accuracy with which people processed information. Since relying on schemas can sometimes lead to mindlessness and the use of inappropriate heuristics, I hypothesized that individuals low in self-concept clarity (who do not use their self-schemas to process information) would perform more accurately on two kinds of objective tasks. In Study 1, people low (vs. high) in self-concept clarity were more accurate on a contingency judgment task (i.e., the Iowa Gambling Task). The accuracy difference seemed to be due to structural differences in the self-concept (Campbell, 1990), rather than a differential tendency to refer to the self-concept when making judgments. Study 2, however, did not replicate Study 1’s effects nor did it find any significant effects for self-concept clarity. In Study 3, participants listened to a “going out to dinner story” that was either about themselves (self-applicable) or other people (non-self-applicable), and then took a recognition memory test for details about the story. Individuals low (vs. high) in self-concept clarity had a higher false alarm rate across both conditions, indicating that they were more likely to use scripts when processing the stories. As a whole, high self-concept clarity impaired performance on a novel, data-driven task (Study 1), but facilitated performance on a routine, memory-based task (Study 3). High self-concept clarity individuals may generate hypotheses that interfere in novel tasks, but may avoid reliance on general knowledge structures during more routine tasks.