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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1995 Jul;69(1):16-28.

Effects of introspecting about reasons: inferring attitudes from accessible thoughts.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville 22903-2477, USA.


Previous research has shown that analyzing reasons can change people's attitudes, but the exact mechanisms of this effect have not been entirely clear. It was hypothesized that introspecting about reasons focuses people's attention on thoughts that are accessible in memory and increases the extent to which people view their accessible thoughts as applicable to their current attitudes. In Study 1, college students formed initial impressions of a target person, and then positive or negative thoughts about the target person were made memorable. After a delay, half of the participants analyzed reasons for their attitude and half recalled the target person's behaviors. As predicted, people who analyzed reasons reported attitudes toward the target person that were based more on what they could recall about her. Study 2 showed that this effect occurs regardless of whether people initially form an online impression. Implications for the effects of analyzing reasons and for attitude formation are discussed.

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