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PSY426H1 Lecture Notes - Caffeine, Determinant, Impulsivity

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Jason Plaks

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Asking yourself “what am I doing?” is a deeper task than it seems, because there is a
multitude of ways of describing your actions. You have to decide on how general or specific
you would describe your behaviour—and whether it’s focused on the “how” or “why”.
Vallacher and Wegner propose that describing an action in specific and base ways helps one
carry it out, while describing it in a broad sense provides meaning. Thus the identities given
to our actions have an effect on subsequent action. The farther an action is, the more
abstract our description is. And while breaking actions down into concrete, simple identities
helps one get through a difficult task, abstract identities aid self-control to carry through
on a task and even aid recovery after a negative experience by distancing oneself from it.
Vallacher and Wegner call their model the theory of action identification: it is about the
interplay between action and the mental representation of it—both have an influence on
each other.
Cognition and Action:
Many psychologists were sceptic about cognitive representations of action having
any effect on behaviour, since behaviour follows a general path, while cognition is
Many others think cognition does play a role, but a reflective one. The cognitive
identification comes about in response to behaviour. Ex. Self-perception theory
(infer attitudes from behaviour), Freudian theory (actions from unconscious drives,
cognition explains it)
Some focus on the intent connection: ideas are maps for action and are carried out
unless something intervenes. Yet little is known about cognition’s effect on enduring
Both reflective and intent connection have validity, yet both need to be integrated
Action identification theory holds cognitive representations and action to have
cyclical influence on each other; through intent connection, cognitive
representation lead to action, and action causes reflection and further
Action Identification Theory:
identification of one’s actions is constrained by reality, and people tend to arrive at
identifications that help maintain their actions
Levels of identification: the theory distinguishes between high-level and low-level
identification. Higher-level identities provide a generals understanding of an action,
are more abstract, and indicate the meaning or “why” of an action, lower-level ones,
however, are more basic and more component-focused, and breaking an action down
into concrete behaviours. Each action has an identity structure, which bears all the
different ways of how it can be identified. And low versus high level identification is
a relative organization. Ex. Drinking milk: picking up the glass versus getting calcium
Three theoretical principles of the theory:
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