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Most of the research in our lab has involved the interpersonal roots of self-esteem. Broadly speaking, we examine the ways in which people's thoughts and feelings about themselves are shaped by the way they think others see them. In one of the first studies on this topic, research participants were led to think about either someone who was very accepting of them or someone who was very evaluative. When they later failed on a difficult memory task, their self-evaluations tended to be relatively accepting or self-critical, in line with the "prime." Many priming studies of this sort followed, and the results confirmed the notion that bringing to mind images of criticism tends to make people more self-critical, but bringing to mind images of social acceptance tends to make people more self-accepting as well. This seemed to be the case even if the accepting and critical images were stimulated subliminally -- that is, completely outside of people's awareness. All of these studies together laid the groundwork for our current research, in which we are examining ways to bring images of acceptance to mind on a more regular, ongoing basis. For more information or for an extensive list of publications, please go to the following link :

Selected Abstracts

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Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J.R. & Fitzsimons, G.M.(2004). Self-esteem and the Dual Processing of
Interpersonal Contingencies. Self and Identity, pp.1-13.

Social cognitive research has shown that individuals with low self-esteem exhibit contingency expectations involving interpersonal acceptance and rejection (e.g., If I fail, then I will be rejected). We examined whether the processing differences between low and high self-esteem individuals would be evident in their most spontaneous reactions, or only in relatively deliberate responses. A lexical decision task measured people's reaction times to positive or negative interpersonal words, following success or failure primes. The stimulus onset asynchrony was manipulated to allow spontaneous or deliberate processing. Individuals with low self-esteem exhibited contingencies at the spontaneous level. These contingencies were not evident in individuals with high self-esteem. The findings support interpersonal models of self-esteem, and confirm that controlled, deliberate thought is not required for the activation of relational expectations.

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Baccus, J.R.,Baldwin, M. W., & Packer, D.J. (2004). Increasing Implicit Self-Esteem Through Classical Conditioning. Psychological Science, 15, pp.498-502.

Implicit self-esteem is the automatic, nonconscious aspect of self-esteem. This study demonstrated that implicit selfesteem can be increased using a computer game that repeatedly pairs self-relevant information with smiling faces. These findings, which are consistent with principles of classical conditioning, establish the associative and interpersonal nature of implicit self-esteem and demonstrate the potential benefit of applying basic learning principles in this domain.

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Dandeneau, S.D. & Baldwin, M.W. (2004). The inhibition of Socially Rejecting Information among People with High versus Low Self-Esteem: The Role of Attentional Bias and the Effects of Bias Reduction Training. Journal of social and Clinical Psychology , 23, 584-602.

In two studies, we examined the inhibition of rejection information. In Study 1, we developed a Rejection Stroop task with the purpose of measuring an attentional bias to rejection words hypothesized to characterize individuals with low self-esteem. Results indicated that people with low self-esteem experienced significantly more interference on rejection words than on acceptance words, whereas for people with high self-esteem there was no such difference. In Study 2, we developed a task to train the response of inhibiting rejection information by repeatedly identifying the smiling/accepting face in a 4 × 4 matrix of frowning faces. Results showed that after this inhibition training, people with chronic low self-esteem experienced significantly less interference on rejection words on the Rejection Stroop than their counterparts in the control condition. People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, did not exhibit different amounts of interference on rejection or acceptance words between conditions. The present findings suggest that it is possible to measure people’s attentional bias to rejection and teach people skills that help them deal with negative social information.

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Baldwin, M. W., Granzberg, A. & Pritchard, E.T. (2003). Cued Activation of Relational Schemas: Self-Evaluation and Gender Effects. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 35, 153-163.

In two studies, men's and womens' self-evaluative responses following presentation of rejection and acceptance cues were examined. Two different conditioning procedures were utilized to associate computer-generated tones with images of social rejection or acceptance. When these tones were played later in a self-evaluative situation, women tended to respond to rejection cues by becoming more self-critical, and to acceptance cues by becoming less self-critical. On some indicators, men responded in the opposite fashion. These findings are discussed in light of recent analyses of gender differences in the sources of self-esteem.

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Baldwin, M. W. & Kay, A. (2003). Adult Attachment and the Inhibition of Rejection. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22, pp.275-293.

Recent research has identified the inhibition of negative interpersonal information as a critical social cognitive mechanism associated with adult attachment orientations. Sixty undergraduate participants were conditioned to associate one computer tone with interpersonal rejection, and another with acceptance. The tones were played again while the participants performed a lexical decision task that assessed the activation of rejection information. To the extent that individuals were low on attachment anxiety, the conditioned tones led to slower reaction times to rejection target words, indicating the inhibition of rejection expectations. The implications of such inhibitory processing are discussed.

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Baldwin, M. W., & Baccus, J. R. (2003). An Expectancy-Value Approach to Self-Esteem. In S. Spencer and S. Fein (Eds.) Motivated social perception: The Ninth Ontario Symposium.

[from the chapter] It is sometimes assumed that negative self-esteem feelings arise directly from self-evaluation. However, as researchers have begun to ask "Why do people self-evaluate and care so much about their self-evaluations?" the answer has often portrayed self-evaluation and self-esteem as a function of underlying social motives. In this chapter, we consider the notion that the positivity versus negativity of the self matters to people because of its expected relevance to the satisfaction of important social motives. We start by outlining the concept of the relational schema, which is the cognitive structure representing interpersonal expectations. We next examine a range of research findings that speak to the role of relational schemas in processes of self-evaluation.

Baldwin, M. W., & Main, K. J. (2001). The Cued Activation of Relational Schemas in Social Anxiety. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1637-1647.

A cued activation procedure was used to examine the hypothesis that social anxiety involves an expectation of being rejected or evaluated negatively by others, combined with a concern about impression management (e.g., Schlenker & Leary, 1982). Participants underwent a conditioning procedure in which distinctive computer tones were paired with thoughts of social rejection and acceptance respectively. In a pilot study, a lexical decision task established that when these tone cues were played later, they differentially activated expectations of rejection. In the main study, female participants interacted with a male confederate while one of the tones, or a control tone, sounded repeatedly in the background. Several indicators of social anxiety showed an interaction between level of public self-consciousness and the nature of the tone played. High self-conscious individuals tended to be affected by the cues; low self-conscious people were not.

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Baldwin, M.W. (2001). Does Bob Zajonc ever scowl at you from the back of your mind? In J. Bargh & D. Apsley (Eds.), Festschrift in honor of Robert Zajonc. Festschrift in honor of Robert Zajonc. American Psychological Association.

[from the chapter] ...One of the main issues of interest to me was how cognition regarding the self was shaped by structures relating to communicative contexts. As Zajonc suggested in his provocative work on cognitive tuning (Zajonc, 1960), our thought processes are often shaped by thoughts of communicating with specific other people having specific traits, knowledge, goals, and so on. While I agree with Zajonc & Adelmann (1987) that this profound principle has not been studied adequately by social psychologists, it has received some attention (e.g., Higgins & Rholes, 1978; Levine, Bogart, & Zdaniuk, 1996). My contribution has been to seek some evidence that this communicative context need not be a function of one's current or immediately anticipated interactions, but can be established by the activation of a knowledge structure representing a well-learned interaction pattern. The audience shaping the cognitive tuning of thought, therefore, need not be present in the flesh but can be a completely private audience.

Baldwin, M.W. & Fergusson, P. (2001). Relational schemas: The Activation of Interpersonal Knowledge Structures in Social Anxiety. In R. Crozier & L. Alden (Eds.) The International Handbook of Social Anxiety.

[from the chapter] The fear of negative evaluation involves images or representations about how social interactions likely will ensue - images that link apprehension about behaving in an embarrassing or inferior manner with expectations of being rejected, humiliated or otherwise devalued as a consequence. The model presented here is primarily concerned with the cognitive representations that underlie such anxieties. In approaching a new situation, what autobiographical memories resonate with the current context, and trigger negative social expectations? What causes certain images or outcomes (e.g., being teased or mocked) to enter into mind so easily, effortlessly, and automatically that they seem not only plausible but also inevitable? What social categories (e.g., 'loser') influence - even implicitly-the interpretation of ongoing experience? How might it be possible to modify the categories that become activated, to replace dysfunctional structures with more functional ones?

Baldwin, M. W., & Keelan, J. P. R. (1999). Interpersonal Expectations as a Function of Self-Esteem and Sex. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Vol 16(6), 822-833.

Theoretical models of the interpersonal roots of self-esteem emphasize people's expectations about whether they can anticipate acceptance and affiliation in significant relationships. 182 17-47 yr old male and female undergraduates with high and low self-esteem were compared in terms of their if-then expectations regarding interactions with significant others. Ss completed the Interpersonal Schema Questionnaire, which assesses the degree of affiliation and dominance that people expect from others. Overall, Ss expected response complementarity, with their own friendliness leading to affiliation from others, and submission leading to dominance. Consistent with interpersonal models of self-esteem, high self-esteem Ss reported greater confidence that being friendly would draw affiliative responses from others. Compared with men, women expected more affiliative responses to their friendly overtures, and also expected affiliative responses to submissiveness.

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Baldwin, M. W., & Meunier, J. (1999). The Cued Activation of Attachment Relational Schemas. Social Cognition, 17, 209-227.

People's interaction expectancies and views of self are shaped by accessible relational schemas, knowledge structures representing regularities in interpersonal experience. Recent research using classical conditioning paradigms has examined the possibility of creating associations between neutral cues and specific relational schemas so that presentation of the cue serves to activate the relational expectancies. In the current study, a lexical decision task was employed to assess the cued activation of acceptance and rejection expectations as a function of chronic attachment orientation. 42 introductory psychology students were asked to visualized relationships in which they felt noncontingently vs contingently accepted by another person; while doing so they were given repeated computer presentations of distinctive tone sequences. Later, these conditioned tones were played again while Ss performed lexical decisions on stimuli that represented if-then contingencies of interpersonal acceptance and rejection. Results indicate that the conditioning procedure had different effects, depending on participants' chronic attachment orientations.

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Baldwin, M. W. (1999). Activation and Accessibility Paradigms in Relational Schemas Research. In D. Cervone & Y. Shoda (Eds.) Coherence in personality, (pp. 127-154). New York: Guilford.

(from the chapter) Over the past decade my collaborators and I have been developing a social-cognitive model of how people think about their significant relationships and the effects of this thinking has on their interactions and sense of self. The central construct is the relational schema, or cognitive structure representing regularities in patterns of interpersonal relatedness. Their research has explored how relational schemas shape expectations, social behavior, and the interpretations people make of their interpersonal experiences. Topics discussed include: basic principles of the relational schemas approach; research (assessing the content and structure of relational schemas, temporary accessibility, behavior and behavioral intentions); and personality coherence: stability and variability.

Hoyle, R., Kernis, M., Leary, M., & Baldwin, M. W. (1999). Selfhood: Identity, Esteem, Control. Westview.
(from the preface) Addresses three prominent themes in social-psychological research and theory on the self: (1) identity, (2) esteem, (3) and regulation. Under the rubric of identity, the authors cover sources of identity, levels of identity, and the experience of identity--self-concept. With regard to esteem, the authors discuss sources of self-esteem and a number of relatively new ideas about different forms of self-esteem. They also present research on behaviors motivated by the desire for temporary increases in self-esteem. Finally, the authors cover a number of motives and strategies related to the ongoing activity of self-regulation. Collectively, these themes (and the model within which the authors embed them) provide a framework that encompasses most of the topics relevant to the self that have been studied by social psychologists.

Fehr, B., Baldwin, M. W. , Collins, L., Patterson, S., & Benditt, R. (1999). Anger in Close Relationships: An Interpersonal Script Analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 299-312.

The authors conducted an analysis of anger scripts in close relationships from a relational schema perspective focusing on the interpersonal experience of anger and on the sequencing of anger events. 51 male and 73 female introductory psychology students participated in the study. The amount of anger elicited by various instigating events was found to differ for women and men. More important, there was evidence of an interpersonal script for anger. Reactions of angry people were predicated on anticipated partner responses. Gender differences in interpersonal scripts were found only when the angered person chose to react in a negative way (e.g., aggression). Women and men held similar scripts for anger when the angered person reacted in a prosocial manner. Implications of these findings for script analyses of emotion and for close relationships are discussed.

Baldwin, M. W. (1997). Relational Schemas as a Source of If-Then Self-Inference Procedures. Review of General Psychology, 1, 326-335.

It is generally accepted that the sense of self is constructed rather than directly perceived or experienced. The hypothesis is advanced here that people's rules of self-inference derive in large part from if-then expectancies about the contingencies of interpersonal interaction; that is, expectancies about how other people will react to one's behaviors. If so, a central type of cognitive structure contributing to self-construal is the relational schema, representing regularities in interaction. Research examining the cognitive representation of interpersonal expectancies, the activation of those representations, and the effects on self-experience is described.

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Pierce, T., Baldwin, M. W., & Lydon, J. E. (1997). A Relational Schema Approach to Social Support. In G. Pierce, Lakey, Sarason, & Sarason (Eds.), Sourcebook of Theory and Research on Social Support and Personality. (pp. 19-47). New York: Plenum.

(from the chapter) Examines cognitive processes but focuses specifically on cognitions about interpersonal dynamics, thus facilitating research into the link between interpersonal and intrapsychic factors. Drawing heavily from these sources and other research findings, the authors sketch a social-cognitive framework for interpreting perceived social support, and then apply it to some of the issues in the social support literature. Within this framework, they address questions of whether perceived social support is a global personality style or a differentiated set of expectations; whether it consists of positive or negative expectations; and whether it is a stable construct or should be expected to vary in meaningful ways. Topics include: relational cognition and the role of relational schemas in stress and coping.

Baldwin, M. W., & Sinclair, L. (1996). Self-Esteem and "If...Then" Contingencies of Interpersonal Acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1130-1141.

An important influence on the social construction of self- esteem is the degree to which the individual perceives interpersonal acceptance as relatively unconditional versus contingent on one's successes and failures. Three studies were conducted using a lexical-decision task to examine high and low self-esteem individuals' if-then expectancies with respect to contingencies of interpersonal acceptance. On each trial, participants first were shown a success or failure context word. Then, they made a word/nonword judgment on another letter string which sometimes was a target word relating to interpersonal acceptance or rejection. Study 1 showed that for low self-esteem participants, success and failure contexts facilitated the processing of acceptance and rejection target words, respectively, thus revealing associations between performance and social outcomes. Study 2 demonstrated that the finding could not be explained as a simple valence- congruency effect. Study 3 demonstrated that the lexical- decision pattern was stronger for people who had recently been primed with a relationship in which acceptance was highly conditional, as opposed to one based more on unconditional acceptance. These studies contribute to a social cognitive formulation of the role that accessible relational schemas play in the social construction of self- esteem.

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Baldwin, M. W., Keelan, J. P. R., Fehr, B., Enns, V., & Koh-Rangarajoo, E. (1996). Social Cognitive Conceptualization of Attachment Working Models: Availability and Accessibility Effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 94-104.

The mental models underlying adult attachment styles were conceptualized from a social cognitive perspective. Three studies were conducted to test hypotheses related to the availability and accessibility of attachment-relevant relational knowledge. Results showed that whereas most people reported experience with multiple styles of relating, the general attachment style they endorsed was related to: a) the proportion of their significant relationships in which their feelings corresponded to the different attachment style descriptions, b) the ease with which they could generate exemplar relationships to match these descriptions, and c) their interpersonal expectations in these relationships. The last study involved a priming manipulation in which a relationship matching one of the attachment style descriptions was brought to mind, and attraction to different potential dating partners was assessed. Overall, the findings suggest that most people process relational knowledge corresponding to all three attachment styles and that the relative availability and accessibility of this knowledge determines which style people report to characterize their thinking about relationships.

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Baldwin, M. W., & Wesley, R. (1996). Effects of Existential Anxiety and Self-Esteem on the Perception of Others. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 18 75-95.

Previous research has demonstrated that when people are led to think about death, they later exhibit more polarized judgments of ingroup and outgroup members. This reaction has been interpreted as an attempt to defend against existential anxiety by seeing oneself as a secure member of a meaning-conveying cultural group. The present study examined the moderating influence of self- esteem, and found that the polarization effect in response to mortality primes was most pronounced for high self-esteem individuals. An additional manipulation of meaninglessness- anxiety was unsuccessful in producing polarization, lending support to the theoretical centrality of death concerns. We discuss the relevance of these findings to Terror Management Theory (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991).

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Baldwin, M. W. (1995). Relational Schemas and Cognition in Close Relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 12, 547-552.

There is a recent trend toward the development of a comprehensive model of relational cognition, examining how information about interpersonal experiences is perceived, interpreted, stored and recalled. I present illustrative examples from recent adult attachment research, and argue that a better understanding of cognition about interpersonal dynamics could help to integrate the various domains of relationship research.

Baldwin, M. W., & Fehr, B. (1995). On the Instability of Attachment Style Ratings. Personal Relationships, 2, 247- 261.

We examined the stability of ratings on the Hazan and Shaver (1987) single-item attachment style scale in a number of data sets, gathered by us and other researchers. Approximately 30% of subjects overall changed their attachment style classifications over a relatively short time span (ranging from 1 week to several months). The highest rate of instability was observed in subjects who classified themselves as anxious-ambivalent--the majority of whom changed their ratings from one time to the next. Given these findings, we explore the methodological and conceptual implications of instability in attachment style ratings. With regard to the former, we question the current practice of selecting subjects for participation in research based on responses to the attachment style questionnaire administered on a different occasion. Our findings suggest that a substantial proportion would change their style rating in the interim. In terms of conceptualization, we examine a number of different explanations for the observed instability and propose that it may reflect variability in the underlying construct, rather than a lack of continuity in style or unreliability of measurement. From this perspective, an individual's response to an attachment style questionnaire reflects the relational schema that is activated at that moment, rather than an enduring general disposition or trait. Stability in ratings is therefore neither assumed nor expected.

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Baldwin, M. W. (1994). Primed Relational Schemas as a Source of Self-Evaluative Reactions. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 13, 380-403.
It is argued that self-evaluative reactions are shaped by activated relational schemas, which represent how one would be evaluated in a significant relationship. In two studies the unobtrusive presentation of a significant other's name was used to prime a specific internalized relationship. Under certain conditions, exposures to the name of a critical versus accepting significant other led subjects to report more negative versus positive self-evaluations and mood. The conditions producing an impact of primed relational schemas were subliminal presentation of the prime (Experiment 1) and heightened self-awareness (Experiment 2).

Baldwin, M. W., Fehr, B., Keedian, E., Seidel, M., & Thomson, D. W. (1993). An Exploration of the Relational Schemata Underlying Attachment Styles: Self-report and Lexical Decision Approaches. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 746-754.

It is proposed that the cognitive mechanisms underlying attachment styles are expectations about interaction with significant others. Two studies are described that assessed these relational schemata. The first study revealed that individuals of different attachment styles do have different expectations about likely patterns of interaction with a romantic partner in various interpersonal domains. The second study demonstrated the utility of the lexical decision task for examining interpersonal expectancies. When given a related context, secure subjects were quicker to identify words representing positive interpersonal outcomes, whereas insecure subjects were quicker to identify negative outcome words. Methodological and conceptual implications of a relational schema approach to attachment styles are discussed.

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Baldwin, M. W. (1992). Relational Schemas and the Processing of Social Information. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 461-484.

It has long been one of the grand ideas in psychology that people internalize their relationships with significant others, which influences their experience of subsequent relationships and their sense of self. Recent work in social cognition has largely neglected the impact of internally represented interpersonal information, however, with researchers choosing instead to focus on the perception of self and other persons in isolation. After a review of relevant theoretical models, it is proposed that research could profitably examine people's relational schemas, defined as cognitive structures representing regularities in patterns of interpersonal relatedness. The elements of a relational schema include an interpersonal script for the interaction pattern, a self-schema for how self is experienced in that interpersonal situation, and a schema for the other person in the interaction. Research strategies are discussed.

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Baldwin, M. W., Carrell, S. E., & Lopez, D. F. (1990). Priming Relationship Schemas: My Advisor and the Pope are Watching Me from the Back of My Mind. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 26, 435-454.

Cognitive priming methodologies were employed to examine whether internally represented interpersonal information can affect the experience of self. In the first study, psychology graduate students evaluated their own research ideas after exposures, below the level of conscious awareness, to slides of either the scowling, disapproving face of their department chair or the approving face of another person. In the second study, Catholic subjects evaluated themselves after exposure to the disapproving face of either the Pope or an unfamiliar other. In both studies, self-ratings were lower after the presentation of a disapproving significant other. In Study 2 there was no effect, however, if the disapproving other was not a personally significant authority figure, either because the subject was a relatively nonpracticing Catholic or the picture was of an unfamiliar person. It is argued that the primes may have activated relationship schemas, or cognitive structures representing regularities in interpersonal interaction.

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Baldwin, M. W., & Holmes, J. G. (1987). Salient Private Audiences and Awareness of the Self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1087-1098.

We used self-awareness and cognitive priming methodologies to test the hypothesis that important aspects of the experience of self derive from the way one would be perceived and responded to by a private audience of internally represented significant others. In the first study, 40 undergraduate women visualized the faces of either two acquaintances from campus or two older members of their own family. Later, when they rated the enjoyableness of a sexually permissive piece of fiction, they tended to respond in ways that would be acceptable to their salient private audience. There was some evidence that this effect was especially pronounced for subjects made self-aware by the presence of a small mirror, whose responsivity to self-image concerns was presumably heightened. In the second study, 60 undergraduate men were exposed to a failure experience, and their resulting self-evaluations were assessed. Self-aware subjects' responses reflected the evaluative style of a recently visualized private audience. Strong negative self-evaluative reactions on a number of measures were evident when the salient audience tended to make acceptance contingent on successful performances, but not when the audience manifested relatively noncontingent acceptance. These results demonstrate the influence of internally represented significant relationships on the experience of self.

Chaiken, S., & Baldwin, M. W. (1981). Affective-Cognitive Consistency and the Effect of Salient Behavioral Information on the Self-Perception of Attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 1-12.

Subjects with well-defined or poorly defined prior attitudes toward being an environmentalist/conservationist were identified by assessing the structural consistency between the affective and cognitive components of their attitudes. After subjects completed one of two versions of a questionnaire designed to make salient either past pro-ecology or past anti-ecology behaviors, their final attitudes were assessed. The hypothesis that the self- perception account of attitude expression holds primarily for individuals with poorly defined prior attitudes was supported: Low-consistency subjects, with presumably poorly defined attitudes, but not high-consistency subjects, with well-defined attitudes, expressed postmanipulation environmentalist attitudes that were congruent with the pro- or anti-ecology behaviors made salient by the questionnaire manipulation. The additional finding that high-consistency (vs. low-consistency) subjects' beliefs on five ecology-related issues were more highly intercorrelated supported the assumption that the consistency construct appropriately indexes the degree to which individuals possess well-defined attitudes. A comparison of theory and research on self-schemata with research on the affective-cognitive consistency variable suggested that the latter may be a useful measure of attitude schematicity.

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