Self as actor, active observer, and passive observer: Implications for causal attributions

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Abstract

D. T. Miller et al (see record 1975–21040–001) distinguished between active observers (those on the receiving end of an actor's behavior) and passive observers (onlookers of an event involving an actor and an active observer). Following the concept of hedonic relevance, it was hypothesized that active observers would attribute the actor's behavior to personal dispositions of the actor more strongly than passive observers. In a series of hypothetical emotional events, 24 male undergraduates were depicted either as actors (“You like Ted”), active observers (“Ted likes you”), or passive observers (“Ted likes Paul”). They then rated the degree to which the actor, active observer, or some “other reason” had caused the given event. Although the actor-observer effect was obtained overall, an interaction between S role and positivity of verb indicated that it occurred much more strongly in negative-verb than positive-verb events. That is, Ss, either as actors or active observers, tended to deny their responsibility for negative events but did not claim praise for positive events. Implications for the effects of egotism on attribution are discussed. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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