The bias phenomenon in attitude attribution: Actor and observer perspectives

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Abstract

Research has shown that observers infer correspondent attitudes from behavior that is externally constrained. The present study, with 366 undergraduates, examined (a) the degree to which actors anticipated observers' (Os‘) manifestation of this bias, (b) the effect of presenting constraint information directly from the actor as compared to the experimenter's instructions, and (c) the relationship between constraint experienced by the actor and the persuasiveness of essays produced under different constraint levels. Essay writers clearly predicted that Os would infer correspondent attitudes even when the position had been randomly assigned to the writer. This was true, to a diminished extent, when the writer was under genuinely high constraint. When actors expected Os to have precise information regarding their actual constraint, they anticipated that Os would recognize the attributional implications of such information. Data from Os corroborated the actors' predictions. When Os were not given this information, their attributions were based solely on essay content and indicated no recognition of the different freedom levels experienced by the essay writers. Essays written under different constraint levels were judged by Os to be generally of similar and fairly respectable persuasiveness. It is suggested that the bias phenomenon may be a consequence of presenting Os with essays more persuasive than they expect from a writer who in fact disagrees with the assignment. (14 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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