Date of Award:

1999

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Tamara J. Ferguson

Abstract

In Weiner's attributional perspective on emotion, recipients appraise outcomes in terms of three attributional dimensions--locus, controllability, and stability. The specific pattern of inferred attributions determines the nature of the resulting emotional experience. Weiner further claims that a sender's own emotion may serve as a precipitating event for a receiver's resulting attributions and emotions. Parkinson critiques the notion that there are inflexible or unique links among senders' emotions, the attributions conveyed by senders' emotions, and the resulting attributions or emotions aroused in recipients. Parkinson implies instead that the nature of the interpersonal relationship between senders and receivers, independent of attributional inferences, is a more important determinant of the specific emotion aroused. The main question asked in the present study was whether a sender's anger or pity led to receiver attributions and emotions consistent with Weiner's model across different types of sender-receiver relationships.

Using a variation on Weiner's paradigm, 174 female and 104 male university students were presented with scenarios depicting the interaction of two people who were friends, enemies, or strangers. In each scenario, a receiver's behavior was followed by either a reaction of anger o pity from the sender. Participants then answered four questions to check the effectiveness of manipulations, rated the sender's attributions about the receiver's behavior and the receiver's own attributions, and predicted the intensity of the receiver's own emotional response (including guilt and shame).

Because the pity manipulation was deemed ineffective, data were analyzed for the sender-anger condition only. Although Weiner's model was somewhat supported in the friend condition, there was only a weak relation between sender and receiver attributions, as well as either of these attributions and sender anger when examined across the three relationship conditions. Importantly, relationship variables more than attributional ones affected the degree to which receivers responded with guilt and shame to the sender's anger.

Discussion focuses on the potential epiphenomenal role of attribution in eliciting emotion and the need to examine Parkinson's view that identity-related concerns, which vary as a function of the nature of the target relationship, are more central to arousing specific emotional responses.

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