In 1962, a classic social psychology experiment was completed by Schachter and Singer. In the study, the researchers injected participants with a drug known to increase physiological arousal (increased heart rate, blood pressure, and energy). Only half of the participants were told about the drug’s effects in advance. The participants were then divided into two groups. The first group of participants was placed in a waiting room with nonstudy individuals who acted excitedly happy. The second group of participants was placed in a waiting room with nonstudy individuals who acted irritable. Interestingly, those participants who were not told about the drug’s effects beforehand responded to the drug in the same manner as the nonstudy individuals with whom they shared a waiting room. Participants waiting with happy individuals became happy, while participants waiting with irritable individuals became irritated (Schachter & Singer, 1962).
The Schachter and Singer study is believed to be evidence in support of Daryl J. Bem’s Self-Perception Theory. Bem’s theory suggests that when a person is experiencing vague or unknown internal stimuli (such as the increased heart rate and blood pressure mentioned in the study above), that person will then look outside him- or herself to clues within the environment. These external clues are then used to make an interpretation about how the person should feel or behave (Bem, 1972).
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