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WHO IS RESPONSIBLE F OR AN ACCIDENT? DEF ENSIVE ATTRIBUTIONS AND THE SELF DETERMINATION THEORY BY KELLY MAHER A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Psychology New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degre e Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Michelle Barton Sarasota, Florida May, 2009
Who is Responsible? ii Acknowledgements I would especially like to acknowledge Dr. Barton for her steadfast guidance on many levels throughout my four years at New College, culminating in my thesis. It has been an honor to work with her, as she has been a very positive influence on my academic experience and has challenged me to become a better student and prepare me for my future. Additionally I would like to thank Dr. Cal lahan and Dr. Harley for serving on my committee as well as for providing a wide range of unique and valuable learning experiences over the past four years. I extend my gratitude to the students of New College of Florida who were kind enough to participat e in this study. Additionally, I would like to thank my mom, my dad, Ali, Kate, and Ned for their constant support and reassurance.
Who is Responsible? iii Table of Contents Acknowledgements ii Table of Contents iii Abstract iv Introduction 1 Attribut ion Theory 2 Defensive Attribution Theory 4 The Actor Observer Bias 13 Self Determination Theory 15 Causality Orientations Theory 17 The Current Study 22 Method 25 Results 27 Discussion 29 References 38 Tables Table 1 42 Table 2 43 Table 3 44 Appendices Appendix A 45 Appendix B 50
Who is Responsible? iv WHO IS RESPONSIBLE F OR AN ACCIDENT? DEF ENSIVE ATTRIBUTIONS AND THE SELF DETERMINATION THEORY Kelly Maher New College of Florida, 2009 Abstract The current st udy examined the relationship between self determination theory and the use of defensive attributions in the face of an accidental situation with negative consequences. Self determination was assessed using the General Causality Orientations Scale. Respo nsibility vignettes containing the accidental situation varied by role of participant as well as severity of outcome. Participants rated the level of responsibility for the actor, the victim, and chance. Overall there was no evidence of defensive attribu tions, and self determination was not related to responsibility assignment. In contrast to the expected results, a more severe outcome did not result in more responsibility assignment. Additionally, in opposition to the hypothesis, participants assigned more responsibility to themselves than another person. Although there was no evidence of defensive attributions, the results aligned with attribution theory; participants made definitive attributions. ________________________ Dr. Michelle Barton Divisi on of Social Sciences
Who is Responsible? 1 Who is Responsible for an Accident? Defensive Attributions and the Self Determination Theory People feel the need to make sense of the world around them; the situations they are involved in, the other people involved, and their motiv es. Countless examples of this can easily be found in daily life. For example, one might wonder why a friend chose to buy a certain type of car, or why a co worker did not pull his weight on a joint project. Examples of this phenomenon can be found in t he media. Newspapers, talk shows, tabloids, and news teams often report the reasons behind the decisions famous people make; their thoughts, influences, and motives are points of discussion and debate. This process of making sense of the world goes beyon d the information people receive. In fact, in order to organize it in a sensible fashion, people tend to infer causal relationships. The conclusions people draw and the way in which they are drawn can vary greatly between people. Because of this drive, it is unsurprising that there has been a myriad of research on the ways in which people seek to understand their world. Heider (1958) classified this phenomenon as nave psychology: the cause and effect assumptions made by everyday people. However, the research conducted on this effect, has been classified as attribution theory. While the layperson may assume that a particular action was entirely self selected, researchers continue to conduct empirical behavioral studies in order to examine other contr ibuting factors. A particularly important component of attribution theory lies in the attribution of responsibility, especially when a
Who is Responsible? 2 situation culminates in a negative result. Researchers believe that in order for people to keep a strong grasp on the w orld around them, they need to assign responsibility in order to place blame, or appropriate punishment where it is deserved. Further, research has shown that people have a tendency to perceive such situations in different ways. Attribution theory encom passes a broad range of theories that include the ways people perceive the world around them and in turn make decisions based upon these ideas. Although everyone attempts to make sense of the world around them, they do not always come to the same conclusi ons; even when two people are witnessing the same situation. There are a plethora of reasons for these differing perceptions, including the motivations that drive them. One theory of motivation that will be further discussed in this paper is the Self Det ermination Theory, which examines the factors affecting action motivation. Situations that incorporate others are especially important to people because we are social beings. Of great significance to most people, however, is the way that others perceive them. As a result, many people will go to great lengths in order to protect themselves, especially within social settings. This is colloquially referred to as saving face. Within the current study, this concept of the motivations behind self protection, especially within social situations, will be further examined. Attribution Theory Attribution theory encompasses multiple concepts and constructs concerned with the ways in which people try to understand the causes of others'
Who is Responsible? 3 behavior. Shaver (1985) ha s defined the attribution process as a set of "cognitive processes directed towards identification of the invariant properties of people and features of the social environment" (p. 6). Attribution theory is most often applied to social interactions. It e xamines the ways in which people make decisions about others' behavior. A practical application of this theory lies in the ways in which people define and perceive responsibility, causality, and liability. People utilize these concepts in order to make d ecisions and/or judgments about social situations. In general, attribution theory deals with the various factors people use to make attributions, such as elements of the situation in question, characteristics of the people involved, and perceived consequ ences of these attributions (Jones & Nisbett, 1972). One important constituent within this theory is the assignment of responsibility. Attribution theory suggests that there are three general qualities of a situation that can influence responsibility att ribution. The first is whether the behavior in question can be attributed to either internal causes, such as personality and disposition, or to external causes, such as environmental factors. The second is whether the cause is stable or unstable. If the cause is stable, then it can be assumed that a usual response will cause predictable results. However, if it was perceived as unstable, there is generally less surety about the outcome. The third factor is whether the situation was seen as controllable or uncontrollable. If the situation is perceived as controllable, one would believe that their actions would have a direct effect on it, while an uncontrollable situation is much more ambiguous (De Charms, 1968).
Who is Responsible? 4 Defensive Attribution Theory In addition to the need to understand the world, is the need to protect oneself from that world. When making attributions this protection of the self usually takes either one or both of two forms: the need for the actor's outcomes to be deserved, and/or the need for the self to avoid blame (Shaver, 1985). The second of these forms of self protection reflects a sub theory of attribution theory, the defensive attribution theory. The defensive attribution theory asserts that in order to protect the self, people are mo tivated to distort the facts when faced with a threatening situation, even when they are not directly involved in it. This can take the form of placing more blame on the actor in order to distance oneself from him/her, or by placing more blame on the vict im by exaggerating his/her causal role in the situation (Thornton, 1984). By placing more blame on a person, whether it is the actor or the victim, one is able to perceive the situation as predictable, controllable, and thus easier to understand (Chaikin & Darley, 1973). These distortions act as a defense against either sharing the blame (even by proxy) or against the threat of something similar befalling the self. By increasing blame for the actor or the victim, one is able to assert that they would hav e done things differently, which would have then prevented, or at the very least reduced, the negative consequences (Thornton, 1984). The increased blame also helps to quell one's uncertainty, which in turn benefits the self by restoring one's sense of co ntrol (Chaikin & Darley, 1973). The defensive attribution theory began with the work of Walster (1966), who first proposed the self defensive attribution theory, which suggested that
Who is Responsible? 5 when a negative situation or accident occurs, people need to blame some one for the outcome. This is especially salient for accidents with more severe outcomes. The reasoning behind this theory is that if another person, rather than chance, is responsible for the accident, the person making the attribution could have conceiv ably done something different in order to prevent the accident from happening to them. In order to test the self defensive attribution hypothesis, Walster (1966) conducted a study in which the consequences of the accident were manipulated. Participants were asked to listen to a tape of interviews describing a boy and his car accident and subsequently rate the level of responsibility for the outcome. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions. In half the conditions, the consequences were inconsequential, and in the other half they were more severe. In half of each of these conditions, the consequences affected the boy's car, and in the other half a person was affected. After listening to the tapes, the participants were asked to an swer questions in order to assess assignment of responsibility for the accident. The researcher's hypothesis was confirmed; participants assigned more responsibility to the boy when the consequences were more severe, regardless of the victim. Many rese archers have tried to replicate and expand upon the results of Walster's (1966) study. While some attempts have been successful, there were researchers who failed to replicate Walster's (1996) findings. One such example was Shaver (1970), who suggested t hat the reason others were having difficulty finding evidence for the self defensive attribution theory was because the
Who is Responsible? 6 situations posed to the participants lacked relevance to them. Shaver conducted a series of three experiments in order to test this hyp othesis. In all three experiments, the procedure was drawn from Walster's original study where participants were instructed to assign responsibility for a car accident. Experiment one was designed to address the problem of personal relevance. To accomp lish this, the age of the character in the story was varied to be younger, of a similar age, or older than the participants. The results of this manipulation, however did not support the hypothesis that a more age relevant character would produce lower at tribution of responsibility. Instead, the researcher found a trend of increased responsibility with increased age. Experiment two was designed to further examine personal relevance, in which participants were told prior to reading the vignettes to either assume the defendant's characteristics were very similar to their own, or that they were not at all similar. In this case, Shaver's hypothesis was supported. Characters perceived as more similar to the participant were assigned less responsibility than those who were perceived as less similar. Study three was designed to manipulate severity of outcome while personal relevance was held constant by removing the personal relevance manipulation. The results of this manipulation did not support Walster's or iginal self defensive attribution theory; increased severity did not increase responsibility. Shaver's (1970) three studies, which examined the self defensive attribution theory resulted in varying and seemingly inconsistent results. However, given these results, Shaver expanded the self defensive attribution
Who is Responsible? 7 theory by suggesting that rather than people defending themselves in every negative situation, specific stipulations were needed in order to elicit such defensive reactions. Shaver suggested that in order to see these reactions, a severe outcome (as Walster suggested) was needed, but that personal relevance to the participant was also necessary. Without personal relevance, there would be no need for participants to try to protect the self from blame by proxy. With these new guidelines, Shaver modified the self defensive attribution theory, and created the defensive attribution theory. While Shaver (1970) expanded upon the defensive attribution theory and refined it significantly, disagreement still surrounded the theory (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1973). Some researchers managed to replicate the results (e.g., Harvey, Harris & Barnes, 1975; Gebotys & Dasgupta, 1987; Shroeder & Linder, 1976), while others found evidence that seemed to refute the defensive att ribution theory (e.g., Tyler & Devinitz, 1981; McKillip & Povasac, 1975). In Fishbein and Ajezen's (1973) review of the defensive attribution theory, the authors asserted that an examination of this theory led to "contradictory and inconclusive results" ( pp. 148). Fishbein and Ajzen (1973) suggested that the reason for this incongruence lay in the multitude of variables that might affect attribution of responsibility. Because of these disagreements, the research diverged into two directions. One factio n of researchers manipulated the severity of outcome in order to elicit defensive attributions. These researchers attempted to directly test Walster's original theory by manipulating outcome severity (Harvey, Harris, &
Who is Responsible? 8 Barnes, 1975; Gebotys & Dasgupta, 19 87; Shroeder & Linder, 1976; Kanekar & Pinto, 1990). Many of these researchers found evidence in support of Walster's (1966) original theory of self defensive attributions. They found that when the outcome was more severe, participants assigned more resp onsibility to the perpetrators in each of the studies. Walster (1966) posited that the increase in responsibility attribution allowed the participants to distance themselves from the perpetrator by assuming that if they were placed in the same situation, they could have done something differently in order to either prevent or reduce such severe outcomes. For example, in Walster's original study, participants using defensive attributions might have been able to attribute more responsibility to the boy who caused the accident because they would have assumed that they would have taken more safety precautions. As a result of the plethora of studies that had been conducted on defensive attributions, researchers were able to conduct meta analyses in order to better understand the theory. Burger (1981) conducted a meta analysis of these studies which manipulated outcome severity. He concluded that this manipulation was statistically significant in that there were too many instances in which it provoked defens ive attributions to be attributed to chance alone. In a similar meta analysis conducted by Robbennolt (2000), severity of outcome was also found to be a significant predictor of defensive attributions. The other faction of researchers created new manipula tions other than outcome severity in order to further test the theory. In one such example,
Who is Responsible? 9 researchers Tyler and Devinitz (1981) manipulated the likeliness of the negative situation as well as the outcome severity. Participants were given vignettes of c rimes that were either very likely or very rare, and had either mild or severe outcomes. Interestingly, participants assigned more responsibility to the victim of the crime when the crime was more rare. The researchers posited that the results were due t o the participants' need to distance themselves from the outcome of the crime. If the crime was rare, it was more uncomfortable to think that it could have happened to them, and thus they assigned more responsibility to the victim. Again, this allowed th e participant to assume that they would have done something different in that situation which would have prevented the crime in some way. Thus, the researchers found support for the defensive attribution theory in that participants were using self protect ing measures by assigning blame to the victim. McKillip and Posavac (1975) conducted two experiments in order to further examine the defensive attribution theory as it applied to both a negative and a positive accident. Further, they looked at similarit y to the actor as a mitigating factor. In experiment one, participants were given one of three vignettes, which described a boy who got into a automobile accident. The first condition simply described the accident, the second added that the boy had taken his parents' car without permission, and the third described the boy as having smoked marijuana prior to getting into the accident. Participants were then given an anonymous questionnaire to assess their level of marijuana use. They were placed into cat egories depending on how frequently they partook.
Who is Responsible? 10 Self reported regular marijuana users assigned less responsibility to the actor in the marijuana condition than did those who self reported abstaining from marijuana use. Self reported regular marijuana u sers also assigned less overall responsibility in the marijuana condition than in the other conditions. The results of this first study suggested that participants who perceived themselves to be more similar to actors, tended to assign less responsibility for accidents in which they were involved. The results were consistent with the defensive attribution theory, which states that perceived personal similarity will prompt the use of defensive attributions to lessen the responsibility that might be assigne d by the perceiver in a similar situation. In experiment two, the defensive attribution theory was examined with a happy accident. The example in this study was an unemployed college graduate who was unsuccessfully searching for a job and ran into an ol d friend of the family who happened to need an employee. The participants were given one of five accidental situations; a mild or severe positive situation, a mild or severe negative situation, and a mild but not lucky negative situation. The defensive a ttribution theory suggests that for a happy accident, the participant should assign less responsibility for the severe rather than the mild outcomes. The researchers, however, did not find any significant results for the second experiment. This lack of s ignificant evidence suggested that the defensive attribution theory does not apply to happy accidents, most likely because there is no need to defend the self in such a situation.
Who is Responsible? 11 In a study conducted by Kanekar and Pinto (1990), the researchers manipula ted outcome severity as well as controllability of cause. Participants attributed more responsibility to the victim for more severe outcomes and more controllable causes. These results also supported the defensive attribution theory in that participants evidenced a need to protect the self by assigning more responsibility when they perceived the cause to be more controllable by the victim. Again, this suggests that participants assumed that in the same situation, they would have made different choices, a nd thus they were able to assign more responsibility to the victim without implicating the self. In another study examining different manipulations of the defensive attribution theory, Kouabenan, Gilbert, Medina, and Bouzon (2001), conducted two experim ents that manipulated hierarchical position, gender of subject, and accident severity. In both experiments, participants were given a report of an accident at their place of work, and then asked a series of Likert style questions designed to assess whethe r participants assigned responsibility to internal or external factors. The results of the two studies showed an overall tendency to attribute blame to the victim in the situation. However, this tendency was mediated by hierarchical position of employmen t status. Participants in high hierarchical positions tended to blame the victim more. Additionally, participants used different factors to blame members of either their in group or out group. Specifically they used internal factors, such as personality traits to blame out group members, and external factors, such as situational aspects to blame in group members. When severity was manipulated, these above tendencies were
Who is Responsible? 12 more pronounced. The results of this study echo the specifications suggested by Sh aver (1970), who stated that in order to elicit defensive attributions, personal relevance to the participant needed to be evoked, such as in group versus out group status. Similarly, Chaikin and Darley (1973) conducted a study in which personal similari ty as well as consequences were manipulated. In this study the participants watched a video of two people engaged in a task. They then witnessed an accident occur with the task, which had negative results for the victim. The participants were told that they would be participating in the same task later, either in the victim or the perpetrator's role. The consequences were also varied to be either mild or severe. In the severe outcome condition, participants were less likely to attribute responsibility to chance; rather they would attribute responsibility to another person. This is consistent with the defensive attribution theory, which states that people feel the need to attribute responsibility to something other than chance, for fear that if chance w ere the cause, then they could end up in the same situation. Though the methods of examining the defensive attribution theory have been diverse and the results seemingly contradictory at times, there is a common thread. All of the researchers found som e method of self protection used by participants. This self protection has taken the form of distancing the self by increasing blame for the actor or placing blame on the victim. Therefore, for the purposes of the current study, the definition of defensi ve attributions has been expanded to include any method of placing blame away from the self, whether it
Who is Responsible? 13 be towards the actor or the victim. Additionally, in order to protect the self from the possibility of the negative situation, placing blame away from chance was also included in the definition of defensive attributions (Tyler & Devinitz, 1981; Chaikin & Darley, 1973). The Actor Observer Bias A sub theory of attribution theory that highlights people's self protection needs is the actor observer bias s uggested by Jones and Nisbett (1971). They proposed that actors and observers differ in the ways they perceive situations. Specifically, actors tend to attribute their actions to situational aspects, while observers tend to attribute behaviors to disposi tional aspects of the actor, especially in the face of negative outcomes or consequences (Jones & Nisbett, 1971). The main reason for this difference has been cited as the actor's focus on the situational cues from which he is supposed to act, while for t he observer, the actor's behavior and assumed intentions are most salient. Evidence of the actor observer bias in combination with attribution was found by Wilson, Levine, Cruz, and Rao (1997). Participants were placed in one of two conditions and aske d to recall a time in which there was an unfulfilled obligation. In one condition they were to think of a situation in which they had not fulfilled the obligation, and in the other condition they were asked to think of a time when someone else had not ful filled an obligation. Participants were then given either Likert style or open ended questions to assess attribution. This was followed by an attribution complexity questionnaire, which assessed the level of complexity of people's explanations for situat ions. The researchers found
Who is Responsible? 14 evidence for the actor observer bias. Participants who thought of times in which they were the actor attributed fault to external sources, while those who thought of times in which someone else had not fulfilled an obligation made attributions to more internal sources. This trend was found both for the Likert style and the open ended questions. Researchers Jones and Harris (1976) also examined the actor observer bias. Participants were asked to listen to speeches either for or against Castro's Cuba that were supposedly written by their peers. There were two conditions of speeches; the speaker either chose the side he/she was supporting, or had no choice in the matter. Participants then rated the speakers on their true belie fs about the subject. Despite the fact that participants were aware that there were external constraints on some of the speakers, they consistently rated the speakers as truly believing in the side that they spoke for. These results provided strong evide nce for the actor observer bias in that the observers were willing to accept the speeches at face value as a reflection of the speaker's true beliefs, regardless of previous information to the contrary. Summary. People are motivated to understand the wor ld around them, both because it allows them to know how to interact within it, and because it gives them a sense of control over events, which in turn provides them with a sense of security and justice. Threatening situations, especially those that have s ome sort of relevance to the self, are a constant cause of unease for people. In order to reduce this threat, people have a general tendency to distance themselves from it in some way. Methods of accomplishing this goal through
Who is Responsible? 15 attributions have been evi denced by both the actor observer bias as well as the defensive attribution theory. One method by which people separate themselves from blame has been explained by both of these theories; people assume that they would have acted differently in some way, thus preventing or at the very least reducing the severity of the outcome. More specifically, the actor observer bias manifests a difference in the perceptions of actors and observers. This difference is made clear by the defensive attribution theory, wh ere people assume that others should have been able to prevent the negative outcome, because placed in the same situation, they believe they would have been able to do so. Thus, a combination of the actor observer bias and the defensive attribution theory help to explain the ways in which people distance themselves from blame of negative consequences by way of attribution, and relieves the sense of unease that they cause. Self Determination Theory While self protecting theories, such as the defensive att ribution theory can be applied to the general public, there are some people who tend not to utilize such strategies. The self determination theory describes these differences in people by examining both the motivators that lead to behavior, as well as the motivational perceptions of situational circumstances. Self determination theory was proposed by researchers Deci and Ryan, and is generally concerned with motivation and the choices that people make of their own volition (Deci, 1980). More specificall y, self determination theory examines environmental factors that promote or hinder motivation, well being,
Who is Responsible? 16 and one's ability to function in a social situation (Ryan & Deci, 2000b). Behaviors are considered to be self determined if the actor possesses, and acts upon, the capacity to make a choice between all of the possible behavioral options (Deci, 1980). Conversely, an act exhibits a lack of self determination if the actor acts automatically without consideration for his possible choices (Deci, 1980). T he self determination theory asserts that there are three needs that are essential for self determination to flourish: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Self determination theory distinguishes between the two primary types of motivation; intrinsic an d extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is defined as performing an action for its inherent satisfaction, while extrinsic motivation is defined as performing an action due to an external source (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). Intrinsic motivation can be measured by free will, interest, or level of enjoyment of an activity. It is an inherent part of the self determination theory since the theory is framed by factors which promote or undermine intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). The foundation of self determinatio n lies in the will to choose one's own behaviors. However, because people have different levels of self determination, the level of the three needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness vary across people and situations. This results in people's diffe ring viewpoints of the world around them. Self determination theory is not only concerned with one's level of motivation (intrinsic or extrinsic), but also the orientation of that motivation, which was classified by Ryan and Deci (2000a) as the underlying attitudes and goals that promote action. The examination of these motivational orientations fall
Who is Responsible? 17 under a sub theory of the self determination theory: the causality orientations theory. Causality orientations theory examines the ways in which people orie nt themselves toward different situations. People not only tend to place themselves in situations that support their particular motivational orientation, but they also have a tendency to perceive other situations in the same way; they attribute causality based upon that orientation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Causality Orientations Theory The causality orientations sub theory of the self determination theory offers further explanation of those people who are highly self determined (Deci, 1980). This theory deli neates the ways in which people orient themselves toward different situations (Deci & Ryan, 1985). All people possess some level of inclination towards the three orientations: autonomy, control, and impersonal. Autonomy orientation refers to a high leve l of choice and regulation of one's behavior, as well as greater intrinsic motivation. Control orientation involves the organization of one's behavior as determined by external forces rather than one's own will (an external locus of control). The third o rientation, impersonal, refers to the experience of one's behavior as not being connected to its outcomes. People who are high in impersonal orientation often tend to view outcomes as beyond their control (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Depending on which of the th ree is the strongest for a particular person, they will tend to orient themselves toward situations that support that orientation. Additionally, they tend to perceive situations in light of whichever orientation they have a tendency towards.
Who is Responsible? 18 In order to examine these orientation constructs, Deci and Ryan (1985) constructed a scale to measure one's causality orientations, the general causality orientations scale (GCOS). The scale consists of 12 vignettes, each followed by three statements. Each statemen t is indicative of one of the orientations, and participants are asked to rate how similarly they feel to each statement on a seven point Likert scale. A higher score indicates more of that particular orientation. The GCOS has been utilized in past rese arch to identify individuals' tendencies toward the three orientations. Subsequently, particular combinations of these tendencies have been identified as either high or low self determination. Some studies have identified the combination of high autonomy and low control as high self determination, while others have defined high self determination simply by a high level of autonomy (regardless of the other two orientations) (Knee & Zuckerman, 1996, 1998; Hodgins & Liebeskind, 2003; Lewis & Neighbors, 2005) For the purposes of the current study, high self determination is defined similarly to the aforementioned studies as a high level of autonomy. Along with having higher levels of intrinsic motivation, those people identified as high in self determinati on also exhibit another unique quality; they have a tendency not to utilize some of the self protecting strategies employed by most other people (Deci & Ryan, 1987). Such strategies are often evident in social situations. One example of this can be seen in a study conducted by Hodgins, Liebeskind, and Schwartz (1996). The researchers sought to examine people's propensities toward either taking responsibility or acting defensively in
Who is Responsible? 19 the face of a threatening social situation. These propensities were als o correlated with the participants' levels of self determination. Utilizing vignettes, participants were asked to imagine themselves as the transgressor in the situation. The vignettes differed according to severity of the situation and the victim's respo nse. Each participant was asked to read through the situation and then to write down their responses as if they were responding verbally. The GCOS was also administered to participants. The researchers found that, as the self determination theory would predict, those participants who were more self determined (high in autonomy and low in control), demonstrated the least amount of defensive responses to the situations. This effect, however, was mediated by the severity of response by the victim. Even hi ghly self determined participants acted defensively when the response was labeled as severe. Another aspect of self protection within the social realm is the way one presents oneself. Lewis and Neighbors (2005) examined the self determination theory as it applied to the need for self presentation strategies. Participants completed measures of self determination, self presentation strategies, impression management, and social desirability. Participants who had greater levels of autonomy reported fewer u ses of self presentation strategies, impression management strategies, and scored lower on the social desirability scale. Opposite these results, participants who were lower in self determination reported the use of more self presentation strategies, impr ession management strategies, and scored higher on the social desirability scale. From these data, researchers concluded that higher levels of self determination (autonomy) were
Who is Responsible? 20 related to more authenticity, whereas lower levels of self determination (con trol) were related to more deceptive behaviors with regards to self presentation. Deception in self presentation is another form of protecting the self from what others might think. If one is presenting a slightly skewed self, there is no real damage to the self in the face of criticism. Research has not only demonstrated that people who exhibit high self determination use self protecting strategies less often within social situations, but that they also tend not to use more cognitive versions of these strategies. One example of this was found in a study conducted by Knee and Zuckerman (1996). The researchers hypothesized that high autonomy and low control would result in the elimination of the self serving bias. They also predicted that chance based task results would also result in a lack of the self serving bias (the tendency to take credit for success and not for failure). In order to test these hypotheses, the researchers used the GCOS and manipulated task results and feedback. Participants were asked to solve three mazes. In the success group participants received mazes that were impossible to fail, and those in the failure group received mazes that had no solution. There was a time limit imposed on the tasks, which ensured that the participan ts in the success condition could complete the maze, while the those in the failure condition would not have time to realize that there was no solution to the maze. In both conditions, the participants received false feedback that compared them to others, either positively or negatively. Participants were also randomly assigned to either the skill or chance group. The skill group was told that maze solving was a result of
Who is Responsible? 21 skill, while the chance group was told that maze solving was a result of chance. T he participants were then given a packet of questionnaires that assessed how responsible and successful they felt about the maze task and their affect level after the task. The results supported the hypothesis, which stated that participants with low cont rol and high autonomy were significantly less likely to use the self serving bias. All of the other participants displayed the self serving bias; they were self enhancing in the success condition and defensive in the failure condition. They also found th at the self serving bias was more prevalent for the skill group than the chance group. Knee and Zuckerman (1998) conducted a study designed to examine self determination theory and defensive coping mechanisms. More specifically, they looked at avoidance coping, which refers to the tendency to avoid, deny, or ignore problems. The researchers hypothesized that individuals who exhibited higher levels of self determination would be less likely to turn towards avoidant coping strategies. In order to test th is hypothesis, the participants (college students) completed the GCOS. In addition they also received a coping scale which determined their coping strategies, and a self handicapping scale which determined the likelihood of participating in self handicapp ing behaviors. Self handicapping behaviors are those that impede one's own success (either intentionally or unintentionally), thereby allowing one to internalize success and externalize failure (Rhodewalt & Fairfield, 1991). Researchers have theorized th at people engage in such behaviors as a means of self protection (e.g., Knee & Zuckerman, 1998; Tice, 1991; Deppe & Harackiewicz, 1996; Rhodewalt &
Who is Responsible? 22 Fairfield, 1991). Self handicapping behaviors give one an excuse as to why they might have been unsuccessfu l. Knee and Zuckerman (1998) found that when faced with problems, more self determined participants were less likely to use avoidance responses and engage in self handicapping behaviors than their low self determination counterparts. Taken together, th e results of the above studies provide evidence that people who are highly self determined tend not to use as many self protecting strategies, even when most others use them. These include defensive coping mechanisms in social situations as well as more c ognitive strategies, such as the self serving bias. The self determination theory posits that those who have high self determination tend to view the world as more autonomy supportive rather than controlled by external forces. This often creates a level of security for these individuals, which culminates in fewer uses of such self preserving approaches. It appears that only when severity is very high do people high in self determination use self protection strategies like their low self determination cou nterparts. The Current Study Because research has demonstrated that people who have high self determination have a tendency not to exhibit certain self preservation techniques while most others do, the current study hypothesized that this trend would inc lude the use of defensive attributions. Defensive attribution theory has been shown to be a method of protecting the self from direct blame, or the indirect threat of possible blame for negative outcomes. Because people who have high
Who is Responsible? 23 self determination t end to view their surroundings as autonomy supportive, they would theoretically have no need to protect themselves from indirect blame that could have possibly been prevented in some other circumstances. They view their own actions and the results of thes e actions as a direct result of themselves, so there should be no need to protect the self from tangential connections. Theoretically, those who have high self determination should also lack the fear of some similar fate simply befalling them, because the y perceive their world as supporting their autonomy. Since this gives them a sense of control over outcomes, they should have less of a need for defensive attributions. The purpose of the current study was to examine the effect of one's level of self de termination on the use of defensive attributions when faced with a situation with negative consequences. In order to accomplish this goal, participants were asked to complete the GCOS in order to determine their level of self determination (Deci & Ryan, 1 985). For the purposes of this study, only the autonomy subscale was utilized to determine self determination. Additionally, participants were asked to respond to one of four responsibility vignettes and subsequently asked to answer three questions to as sess where they placed responsibility. The vignettes asked the participant to envision either themselves or another in the situation, and the outcome was either mild or severe. The outcome of the situation was varied in order to elicit the use of self pr otective defensive strategies, even for those with high self determination. As mentioned above, previous research has suggested that high outcome severity elicits the use of defensive attributions. With respect to Shaver (1970), who
Who is Responsible? 24 suggested that person al similarity was necessary for people to feel the need to use defensive attributions, each situation was designed to be personally relevant to participants. Past research in the self determination theory/ causality orientations theory has examined thes e self protecting strategies by having participants answer questions about themselves or to answer questions in which they have imagined they are in a situation (e.g., Hodgins et al., 1996). Prior examination of defensive attribution theory has assessed p articipants based upon a hypothetical situation involving someone else (e.g., Walster, 1966; Shaver, 1970; Tyler & Devinitz, 1981; McKillip & Posavac, 1975; Kanekar & Pinto, 1990; Kouabenan, et al., 2001; Chaikin & Darley, 1973). Therefore, in order to co mbine these two methods, the current study manipulated the role of the participant in the responsibility vignettes; either as the actor or the observer (self or other). This manipulation acted as a means to assess the actor observer bias, by allowing for a direct comparison of participants' responses to imagining themselves in a situation versus imagining someone else. Similar to defensive attribution theory, the actor observer bias allows participants to place blame away from the self. Similar to prev ious research regarding people who are highly self determined (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 1985; Hodgins et al., 1996; Lewis & Neighbors, 2005; Knee & Zuckerman, 1998, 1996), it was hypothesized that participants with high autonomy would be significantly less likel y to use defensive attributions when assigning responsibility for the events in the responsibility vignette. More specifically, this would be seen as assigning relatively the same amount of
Who is Responsible? 25 responsibility in the self or the other condition. It was also p ostulated that there would be a slight increase in responsibility assignment for the severe outcome condition. This was based upon research that supports the tendency of highly self determined people to utilize defensive behaviors less so than others. Ho wever, this effect can diminish in the face of highly severe consequences (e.g., Hodgins et al., 1996). Additionally, based on the actor observer bias (e.g., Jones & Nisbett, 1971; Wilson et al., 1997; Jones & Harris, 1976) it was predicted that those wit h low self determination would assign a higher level of responsibility to another than to the self. It was further hypothesized that when the outcome was more severe, all participants would assign more responsibility than for a mild outcome (Burger, 1981) Additionally it was hypothesized that participants would assign less responsibility overall for chance than for the actor or the victim based upon the results of Tyler and Devinitz's (1981) study which found that participants needed to place blame somew here in order to avoid thoughts of such consequences befalling them. Method Participants Participants were 76 undergraduate students, recruited in the college student center as well as at the conclusion of classes, and asked to voluntarily participate i n the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups based upon the responsibility vignette: self/mild, self/severe, other/mild, other/severe.
Who is Responsible? 26 Materials Causality Orientations Participants completed the General Causality Orientati ons Scale (Deci & Ryan, 1985). The scale consists of 12 vignettes, each followed by three statements. Participants were asked to rate on a 7 point Likert style scale how much they agreed with each statement. Each statement represented one of the orienta tions: control, autonomy, and impersonal. A score was computed by summing the participant's rating for each orientation. A higher sum indicated a greater tendency toward that particular orientation. The minimum score for each orientation was 12 while th e maximum score was 84. A copy of the Causality Orientations Scale (Deci & Ryan, 1985) can be found in Appendix A. Responsibility Vignette Participants read one of the four possible responsibility vignettes. The situation involved an accident in the kitchen of a caf. Participants were asked to imagine themselves in the situation as a caf employee (self condition) or to imagine witnessing the situation take place at the caf (other condition). Additionally, the vignette described either severe or mild consequences. The severe consequence condition involved the victim being physically injured, while the mild consequence condition involved the victim being greatly surprised. Three Likert style questions with a response scale ranging from 1 to 7 fol lowed the vignette. Each participant was asked to assess responsibility attributed to the actor, the victim, and chance. A higher score indicated a higher assignment of responsibility. Each question was scored
Who is Responsible? 27 separately. Copies of each of the responsi bility vignettes can be found in Appendix B. Procedure Participants were told that they would be participating in a study concerning the ways people make responsibility judgments for different situations Participants were then randomly assigned to one o f four responsibility vignette conditions (self/severe, self/mild, other/severe, other/mild). Participants were tested individually in a quiet environment. Each participant received a questionnaire packet that contained the General Causality Orientations Scale as well as a responsibility vignette. The order of the two measures was counterbalanced. After completing the questionnaire packet participants were given the option of putting their mailbox number on a list to receive the results of the study aft er its completion. Participants were then thanked for their participation in the study. Results Autonomy Levels For the Causality Orientations Scale, a univariate procedure was conducted to generate descriptive statistics in order to determine the gene ralizability of the current study's results. The descriptive statistics were compared to those reported by Deci and Ryan (1985) in their study designed to develop and validate the causality orientations scale. The mean and standard deviation of the auton omy orientation in the current study ( M = 67.13, SD = 6.71)
Who is Responsible? 28 was similar to that reported by Deci and Ryan (1985) study ( M = 70.54, SD = 6.62). Analysis of Variance (Autonomy x Role x Severity) It was hypothesized that participants with higher autonomy sc ores would use fewer defensive attributions than their low autonomy counterparts. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) through a general linear model (GLM) was calculated (autonomy x role x severity). For all three responsibility questions (actor, victim, and chance), there was no significant main effect of autonomy (all p values greater than .092). There was also no interaction of autonomy with role or outcome severity. Responsibility attribution could not be explained sufficiently by one's autonomy score. Given that participants' autonomy scores varied, but were not predictive of responsibility scores, autonomy was removed from further analysis. In order to determine whether the role of the participant (self or other) and the outcome of the accidental si tuation (severe or mild) conditions differed from each other in terms of responsibility assignment, an ANOVA through GLM was computed. All means and standard deviations can be found in Table 1. It was predicted that more responsibility would be assigned for the severe than the mild outcome condition. For all three responsibility questions (actor, victim, and chance), the responsibility assignment was not significantly different between the mild and the severe outcome (all p values greater than .207). Pa rticipants in the self condition assigned significantly more responsibility to the actor ( M = 4.263, SD = 1.408) than in the other condition ( M = 3.342, SD = 1.457), F (1, 72) = 7.34,
Who is Responsible? 29 p = .008. However, when they were asked to rate the responsibility level of the victim and chance, there was no significant main effect of role (all p values greater than .856). There was also no significant interaction between role and outcome for any of the three responsibility questions (all p values greater than .216). Cor relations In order to determine where participants were placing responsibility, Pearson Correlation Coefficients were calculated to determine the relationship between the pairs of responsibility questions. As shown in Table 2, there was a moderate negat ive correlation between the actor and chance questions in both the severe and the mild condition. In the mild condition the actor and victim question were moderately negatively correlated. In the self condition the actor and victim questions were modera tely negatively correlated (see Table 3). In the other condition the actor and chance questions were moderately negatively correlated, while in the self condition the actor and chance questions approached a significant negative correlation (see Table 3). Discussion Previous research has shown that people tend to use defensive attributions when faced with negative situations. It arises from the need to avoid blame and for the outcome to make sense (Shaver, 1985). This in turn leads people to make attri butions about situations that have a clear cause and effect, and shift blame away from themselves either directly or indirectly. Past research has also shown that people who are highly self determined have a tendency not
Who is Responsible? 30 to utilize self protecting strateg ies such as defensive reactions to social situations (Hodgins et al., 1996), self presentation and impression management strategies (Lewis & Neighbors, 2005), and self handicapping behaviors (Knee & Zuckerman, 1998). The purpose of this study was to combi ne these two theories and to expand upon the past literature by examining the relationship between self determination and defensive attributions. It was hypothesized that participants with a higher level of autonomy would use defensive attributions less than their low autonomy counterparts. The use of defensive attributions would be evidenced by assigning blame away from the self, but to a person rather than chance. This hypothesis was not supported. Data analysis found no main effect for autonomy; p articipants' autonomy scores could not explain their responsibility scores over and above the role or outcome manipulation. Moreover, the analysis of autonomy indicated it did not interact with role or severity. Rather, when assigning responsibility to t he actor, the highest responsibility was assigned when in the self/severe condition followed by the self/mild condition, regardless of autonomy score. Thus, autonomy levels did not affect responsibility assignment in any way within this sample. It was a lso hypothesized that overall responsibility assignment would be higher for participants in the severe outcome condition as opposed to the mild outcome condition. This hypothesis was not supported. Data analysis showed that there was no main effect of ou tcome; severity of outcome was not sufficient in explaining responsibility attribution. These results not only opposed the hypothesis for the present study, but also opposed the defensive attribution
Who is Responsible? 31 theory itself. Previous researchers have found that de fensive attributions can be evidenced through the use of manipulating outcome severity (Robbennolt, 2000; Burger, 1981). The manipulation of outcome severity in the present study was based upon successful past research that utilized an inconvenience as th e mild outcome and a severe injury as the severe outcome (Kanekar & Pinto, 1990; Gebotys & Dasgupta, 1987; Schroeder & Linder, 1976). Although the current study attempted to manipulate severity of outcome, it is unclear whether the non significant results are due to the fact that participants were not using defensive attributions, or due to the fact that the levels of severity were not sufficiently different from each other in order to elicit accurate results. Although it cannot be known for sure whether t his manipulation was successful because it was between groups, it is unlikely that participants were not differentiating between the two because of the vast difference between the mild (inconvenience) and severe (serious injury) outcome condition. The resu lts showed that the manipulation of outcome severity was not sufficient to explain responsibility attribution. However analysis showed that when attributing responsibility to the actor, there was a main effect of role; participants in the self as actor co ndition attributed significantly more responsibility than participants in the other as actor. This difference was similar to the actor observer bias, which states that there is a difference in attribution between actors and observers (Jones & Nisbett, 197 1). However, the direction of this difference was opposite what was expected. It was thought that in order to protect the self, participants would attribute more responsibility to the actor as
Who is Responsible? 32 another versus the self. Contrary to this expectation, parti cipants assigned more responsibility to themselves as the actor, regardless of the outcome. Statistical analysis also evidenced correlations between the three responsibility questions. In both the mild and severe outcome conditions there was a negative correlation between the actor and chance questions. This suggests that regardless of outcome condition, participants were assigning high responsibility to either the actor or to chance. This might indicate that participants were differentiating between a ttributing responsibility to a person versus chance. Additionally in the other condition there was a negative correlation between actor and chance. In the self condition this correlation approached significance. These results may be indicative of the wa y participants were perceiving the three questions. It showed that participants viewed either the actor or chance as worthy of blame. Though the results were opposite the predicted direction, they showed that participants were attempting to make sense of the situation. If they didn't need to make sense and assign blame somewhere, the responsibility scores would have looked the same across all three questions. However, the present study indicated that participants assessed the situation and chose someone (or chance) to blame for the outcome. The results of the current study indicated that self determination, as measured by the autonomy sub scale of the causality orientations scale, played no significant role in responsibility attributions. Autonomy sco res were not predictive of participants' scores on any of the three responsibility questions with one exception. There are several possible reasons for these findings. One
Who is Responsible? 33 common critique of a study of this size is a small sample size. However, since th e majority of the p values did not approach significance, it is unlikely that a larger sample size would have yielded significantly different results. Another possibility is the location of the data collection. Participants were all currently attending a n honors college at the time of the study. Because the school not only emphasizes, but requires students to take responsibility for their educational experience, this high level of responsibility taking might have biased the results. Additionally the tre nd of taking more responsibility in the self condition could be because of a demand characteristic. Participants could have been responding in a socially desirable way, taking more responsibility for one's actions. This could possibly explain participant s assigning a significantly higher amount of responsibility to the actor in the self as actor condition. The results of the present study suggested that participants were not using defensive attributions as previously defined. Because of the incongruity of the past research on defensive attributions, the present study combined and expanded upon its operational definition. In the present study defensive attributions were operationalized as placing blame away from the self, but in the direction of a perso n rather than chance. Because of the expanded definition of defensive attributions, it is surprising that they were not utilized by participants in the current study. The results from this sample indicated that defensive attributions, even under a broade r definition, were not as prevalent as previously thought.
Who is Responsible? 34 One possible reason for the lack of evidence of defensive attributions in the current study might lie in the way the responsibility questions were asked. In the current study participants were a sked how responsible they thought the actor, the victim, and chance were for the outcome of the situation. However, it is possible that participants had different operational definitions of the word responsibility. For example, some people may think of r esponsibility in terms of basic causality, blame, intentionality, the level of punishment deserved, guilt, or liability. One of the major critiques of defensive attribution theory is the problem of semantics when assessing responsibility (Fishbein & Ajzen 1973). The word responsibility was chosen for the purpose of the current study based upon a meta analytic review of responsibility judgments conducted by Robbennolt (2000). The results of the meta analysis showed that out of 65 articles with 75 studies 45 of those studies utilized the word responsibility. Another possible reason for the lack of significant results could be attributed to the fact that the responsibility vignettes were created by the researcher for the purpose of the current study and thus were not validated. Additionally, it is conceivable that the responsibility vignettes had low ecological validity. Although they were constructed to maintain both personal and situational relevance for the participants in the present study, it was st ill a contrived situation on paper. However, the results of a meta analysis conducted by Burger (1981) showed that most of the studies examining defensive attribution theory utilized a simple written description of the accidental situation similar to the present study. The scenarios in the responsibility vignettes involved a
Who is Responsible? 35 college student working at a caf, which is a very common job for college students. Additionally, the situation with the oven described in the vignettes is very plausible, and could have even happened to participants in the past. Another possible reason for the lack of defensive attributions in the current study as suggested by Fishbein and Ajzen (1973) is causal ambiguity within the responsibility vignette. Fishbein and Ajzen (197 3) argued that when there is causal ambiguity, it causes participants to be unsure at what level to answer a question inquiring about responsibility attribution. The researchers expressed that following Heider's (1958) five levels of responsibility (assoc iation, commission, foreseeability, intentionality, and justification) would solve this problem. For the purposes of the current study however this would have been problematic. As Heider's (1958) levels of responsibility increase, so does the implication that there is more responsibility attributed to the environment rather than a person. The addition of these levels to the responsibility vignettes and following questions would have eliminated any options participants had to make judgments about where re sponsibility lies. Thus, there would likely be no differences between participants and subsequently no evidence of true responsibility attribution. Additionally, Shaver (1970) suggested the need for situational ambiguity in order to ascertain results tha t evidence participants' motivations for their assignment of responsibility. Though participants in the present study did not seem to use defensive attributions when making judgments about a negative accidental situation, they were making definite attrib utions. Though they did not use defensive attributions
Who is Responsible? 36 to quell their fears, it seems that they were curing their unease of the unknown by assigning blame somewhere. The results of the current study align with attribution theory; people need to make sens e of the world around them (Shaver, 1985). This was evidenced by the fact that in general, participants placed higher blame on either the actor, or chance, and occasionally the victim or chance. Future research might also benefit from addressing the sem antics of defensive attributions. When assessing responsibility attributions, it would be interesting to run multiple groups that have differently worded questions. Thus, the different terms, such as liability, blame, or punishment, could be directly com pared. In addition to using different words to assess responsibility, a research design in which the participants in each condition were only asked about one aspect of responsibility (i.e. the actor or the victim, not both) might evidence clearer results. It is possible that in the current study, because participants were asked about all three responsibility possibilities at once, that responsibility was distributed among the three. It would be interesting to utilize open ended questions as well to asses s responsibility. The use of open ended questions might actually produce the most realistic results because it would allow participants to use their own words for responsibility. Although the present study found no significant results with respect to au tonomy, future research might still consider self determination as a contributing factor to the study of defensive attributions. Because it was not clear in the present study whether the manipulation of outcome was actually non significant, or if the study method did not work as intended, it is unclear whether
Who is Responsible? 37 autonomy played a role in the use of defensive attributions. Therefore, future research may consider using alternate methods to assess self determination. Past research has found that people use defe nsive attributions in order to protect the self (e.g., Walster, 1966; Shaver, 1970, Harvey et al., 1975; Gebotys & Dasgupta, 1987; Shroeder & Linder, 1976; Tyler & Devinitz, 1981; McKillip & Posavac, 1975; Kanekar & Pinto, 1990; Kouabenan et al., 2001; Cha ikin & Darley, 1973). Additionally, past research has found that people who are highly self determined tend to use self protecting strategies less often (e.g., Knee & Zuckerman, 1996, 1998; Hodgins & Liebeskind, 2003; Lewis & Neighbors, 2005). An especia lly important aspect of this is the tendency for those with high self determination to utilize the self serving bias less often. Because the self serving bias is an attribution error, it is plausible that those high in self determination would also utiliz e other attribution errors less often, such as defensive attributions. Therefore, a continued examination of the possible relationship between self determination and defensive attributions is warranted.
Who is Responsible? 38 References Burger, J. M. (1981). Motivati onal biases in the attribution of responsibility for an accident: A meta analysis of the defensive attribution hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 90 496 512. Chaikin, A. L. & Darley, J. M. (1973). Victim or perpetrator?: Defensive attribution of respon sibility and the need for order and justice. Journal of Personality and Social psychology, 25, 268 275. De Charms, R. (1968). Personal causation: The internal affective determinants of behavior New York: Academic Press. Deci, E. L. (1980). The psy chology of self determination Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (1985). The general causality orientations scale: Self determination in personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 19, 109 134. Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (1987). The support of autonomy and the control of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53 1024 1037. Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (Eds.) (2002). Handbook of self determination research Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. Deppe, R. K. & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1996). Self handicapping and intrinsic motivation: Buffering intrinsic motivation from the threat of failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70 868 876. Fishbein, M. & Ajzen, I. (1973). Attribution o f responsibility: A theoretical note. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 9, 148 153.
Who is Responsible? 39 Gebotys, R. J. & Dasgupta, B. (1987). Attribution of responsibility and crime seriousness. The Journal of Psychology, 121 607 613. Harvey, J. H., Harris, B & Barnes, R. D. (1975). Actor observer differences in the perceptions of responsibility and freedom. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32 22 28. Heider, F. (1958). The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hodgins, H. S. & Liebeskind, E. (2003). Apology versus defense: Antecedent and consequences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39 297 316. Jones, E. E. & Harris, V. A. (1976). The attribution of attitudes. Journal of Experimental Soc ial Psychology, 3 1 24. Jones, E. F. & Nisbett, R. E. (1972). The actor and the observer: Divergent perceptions of the causes of behavior. In E. E. Jones, D. E. Kanouse, H. H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins, & B. Weiner (Eds.), Attribution: Perceivi ng the Causes of Behavior (pp.79 94). Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press. Kanekar, S. & Pinto, A. J. (1990). Attributed responsibility for and perceived likelihood of an outcome as a function of its valence and severity. The Journal of Social Psy chology, 13 435 437. Kouabenan, D. R. Gilbert, D., Medina, M., & Bouzon, F. (2001). Hierarchical position, gender, accident severity, and causal attribution. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31 553 575.
Who is Responsible? 40 Knee, C. R. & Zuckerman M. (1996). Causal ity orientations and the disappearance of the self serving bias. Journal of Research in Personality, 30, 76 87. Knee, C. R. & Zuckerman, M. (1998). A nonedefensive personality: Autonomy and control as moderators o defensive coping and self handicapping Journal of Research in Personality, 32, 115 130. Lewis, M. A. & Neighbors, C. (2005). Self determination and the use of self presentation strategies. The Journal of Social Psychology, 14, 469 489. McKillip, J. & Posavac, E. J. (1975). Judgments o f responsibility for an accident. Journal of Personality, 43 248 265. Ryodewalt, F. & Fairfield, M. (1991). Claimed self handicaps and the self handicapper: The relation of reduction in intended effort to performance. Journal of Research in Personalit y, 25 402 417. Robbennolt, J. K. (2000). Outcome severity and judgments of responsibility: A meta analytic review. Journal of Applied Social psychology 30, 2575 2609. Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000a). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25 54 67. Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000b). Self determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well being. American Psychologist, 55 6 8 78.
Who is Responsible? 41 Schroeder, D. A. & Linder, D. E. (1976). Effects of the actor's causal role, outcome severity, and knowledge of prior accidents upon attributions of responsibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 12 340 356. Shaver, K. G. (1970). D efensive attribution: Effects of severity and relevance on the responsibility assigned for an accident. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 14, 101 113. Shaver, K. G. (1985). The attribution of blame: Casuality, responsibility, and blameworth iness. New York, NY: Springer Verlag. Thornton, B. (1984). Defensive attribution of responsibility: Evidence for an arousal based motivational bias Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46 721 734. Tice, D. M. (1994). Esteem protection or enhancement? Self handicapping motives and attributions differ by trait self esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60 711 725. Tyler, T. R. & Devinitz, V. (1981). Self serving bias in the attribution of responsibility: Cognitive versus motivational explanations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 17 408 416. Walster, E. (1966). Assignment of responsibility for an accident. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3 73 79. Wilson, S. R., Levine, K. J., Cruz, M. G, & Ra o, N. (1997). Attribution complexity and actor observer bias. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 12, 709 726.
Who is Responsible? 42 Table 1 Mean Responsibility (and Standard Deviations ) by Question and Condition Actor Responsibility Role Severity Self Other Total Mild 4.059 (1.298) 3.368 (1.535) 3.695 (1.451) Severe 4.429 (1.416) 3.316 (1.416) 3.900 (1.549) Total 4.263 (1.408) 3.342 (1.408) Victim Responsibility Role Severity Self Other Total Mild 3.529 (1.328) 3.474 (1.541) 3 .500 (1.424) Severe 3.333 (1.354) 2.789 (1.751) 3.075 (1.559) Total 3.421 (1.328) 3.132 (1.663) Chance Responsibility Role Severity Self Other Total Mild 5.177 (1.074) 4.842 (1.573) 5.000 (1.352) Severe 4.762 (1.446) 5.211 (1. 273) 4.976 (1.368) Total 4.947 (1.293) 5.026 (1.423)
Who is Responsible? 43 Table 2 Correlations Between Autonomy and Responsibility Scores for Outcome Outcome = Mild Actor Victim Chance Actor __ .408 .466 ** Victim __ __ .282 Outcome = Severe Actor Victim Chance Actor __ .103 .304 Victim __ __ .071 ** p < .01 p < .05 p < .10
Who is Responsible? 44 T able 3 Correlations Between Autonomy and Responsibility Scores for Role Role = Self Actor Victim Chance Actor __ .509 ** .304 Victim __ __ .123 Role = Other A ctor Victim Chance Actor __ .119 .461 ** Victim __ __ .067 ** p < .01 p < .05 p < .10
Who is Responsible? 45 Appendix A The Causality Orientation Scale These items pertain to a ser ies of hypothetical sketches. Each sketch describes an incident and lists three ways of responding to it. Please read each sketch, imagine yourself in that situation, and then consider each of the possible responses. Think of each response option in ter ms of how likely it is that you would respond that way. (We all respond in a variety of ways to situations, and probably most or all responses are at least slightly likely for you.) If it is very unlikely that you would respond the way described in a giv en response, you should circle answer 1 or 2. If it is moderately likely, you would select a number in the mid range, and if it is very likely that you would respond as described, you would circle answer 6 or 7. 1. You have been offered a new positio n in a company where you have worked for some time. The first question that is likely to come to mind is: a) What if I can't live up to the new responsibility? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) Will I make more at this position? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) I wonder if the new work will be interesting. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 2. You have a school age daughter. On parents' night the teacher tells you that your daughter is doing poorly and doesn't seem involved in the work. You are likely to: a) Talk it over with your daughter to understand further what the problem is. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) Scold her and hope she does better. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) Make sure she does the assignments, because she should be working harder. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 3. You had a job interview several weeks ago. In the mail you received a form letter which states that the position has been filled. It is likely that you might think:
Who is Responsible? 46 a) It's not what you know, but who you know. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) I'm probably not good enough for the job. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely modera tely likely very likely c) Somehow they didn't see my qualifications as matching their needs. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 4. You ar e a plant supervisor and have been charged with the task of allotting coffee breaks to three workers who cannot all break at once. You would likely handle this by: a) Telling the three workers the situation and having them work with you on the schedule. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) Simply assigning times that each can break to avoid any problems. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely modera tely likely very likely c) Find out from someone in authority what to do or do what was done in the past. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 5. A close (same sex) friend of yours has been moody lately, and a couple of times has become very angry with you over "nothing." You might: a) Share your observations with him/her and try to find out what is going on for him/her. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) Ignore it because there's not much you can do about it anyway. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) Tell him/her that you're willing to spend time together if and only if he/she makes more effort to control him/herself.
Who is Responsible? 47 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 6. You have just received the results of a test you took, and you discovered that you did very poorly. Your initial reaction is likely to be: a) "I can't do anything right," and feel sad. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) "I wonder how it is I did so poorly," and feel disappointed. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very lik ely c) "That stupid test doesn't show anything," and feel angry. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 7. You have been invited to a large party where you know very fe w people. As you look forward to the evening, you would likely expect that: a) You'll try to fit in with whatever is happening in order to have a good time and not look bad. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) You'll find some people with whom you can relate. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) You'll probably feel somewhat isolated and unnoticed. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 8. You are asked to plan a picnic for yourself and your fellow employees. Your style for approaching this project c ould most likely be characterized as: a) Take charge: that is, you would make most of the major decisions yourself. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) Follow prece dent: you're not really up to the task so you'd do it the way it's been done before.
Who is Responsible? 48 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) Seek participation: get inputs from others who want to make them before you make the final plans. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 9. Recently a position opened up at your place of work that could have meant a promo tion for you. However, a person you work with was offered the job rather than you. In evaluating the situation, you're likely to think: a) You didn't really expect the job; you frequently get passed over. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) The other person probably "did the right things" politically to get the job. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) You would probably take a look at factors in your own performance that led you to be passed over. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 10. You are emba rking on a new career. The most important consideration is likely to be: a) Whether you can do the work without getting in over your head. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very like ly b) How interested you are in that kind of work. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) Whether there are good possibilities for advancement. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 11. A woman who works for you has generally done an adequate job. However, for the past two weeks, her work has not been up to par and she appears to be l ess actively interested in her work. Your reaction is likely to be:
Who is Responsible? 49 a) Tell her that her work is below what is expected and that she should start working harder. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) Ask her about the problem and let her know that you are available to help work it out. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) It is hard to know what to do to get her straightened out. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely 12. Your company has promoted you to a position in a city far from your present location. As you think about the move you would probably: a) Feel interested in the new challenge and a little nervous at the same time. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely b) Fe el excited about the higher status and salary that is involved. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely c) Feel stressed and anxious about the upcoming changes. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very unlikely moderately likely very likely
Who is Responsible? 50 Appendix B Responsibility Vignettes Other Orientation/ Severe Outcome Imagine that you are witnessing the following situation take place. Think about what has just happened and then answer the questions following the situation. Please only circle one number per question. Alex is a student employee in his college campus caf. Last week, while closing up the caf with a fellow worker, Al ex turned on the oven in order to clean it, and then the phone rang. Alex left the room to answer the phone. In the meantime, Alex's co worker, not realizing that Alex had already started the self cleaner, went to open the oven in order to start the clea ning process. Opening the oven door however while it was in the middle of the cleaning cycle let out a huge burst of hot air, which burned the other student's face severely. 1. How responsible is Alex for the outcome of this situation? Not at all res ponsible Completely responsible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 2. How responsible is Alex's co worker for the outcome of this situation? Not at all responsible Completely responsible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 3. How likely is it that the outcome of this situation was due to chance? Not at all likely Completely due to chance 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Other Orientation / Mild Outcome Imagine that you are witnessing the following situation take place. Think about what has just happened a nd then answer the questions following the situation. Please only circle on number per question. Alex is a student employee in his college campus caf. Last week, while closing up the caf with a fellow worker, Alex turned on the oven in order to clean it, and then the phone rang. Alex left the room to answer the phone. In the meantime, Alex's co worker, not realizing that Alex had already started the self cleaner, went to open the oven in order to start the cleaning process. Opening the oven door ho wever while it was in the middle of the cleaning cycle let out a huge burst of hot air, which startled Alex's co worker and set off the fire alarm. 1. How responsible is Alex for the outcome of this situation? Not at all responsible Completely responsible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Who is Responsible? 51 2. How responsible is Alex's co worker for the outcome of this situation? Not at all responsible Completely responsible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 3. How likely is it that the outcome of this situation was due to ch ance? Not at all likely Completely due to chance 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Self Orientation / Severe Outcome Imagine yourself in the following situation. After you read the situation, answer the following questions. Please only circle one n umber per question. You are a student employee in your college campus caf. Last week, while closing up the caf with a fellow worker, you turned on the oven in order to clean it, and then the phone rang. You left the room to answer the phone. In the meantime, your co worker, not realizing that you had already started the self cleaner, went to open the oven in order to start the cleaning process. Opening the oven door however while it was in the middle of the cleaning cycle let out a huge burst of hot air, which burned your co worker's face severely. 1. How responsible are you for the outcome of this situation? Not at all responsible Completely responsible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 2. How responsible is your co worker for the outcome of this situation? Not at all responsible Completely responsible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 3. How likely is it that the outcome of this situation was due to chance? Not at all likely Completely due to chance 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Self Orie ntation / Mild Outcome Imagine yourself in the following situation. After you read the situation, answer the following questions. Please only circle one number per question. You are a student employee in your college campus caf. Last week, while clo sing up the caf with a fellow worker, you turned on the oven in order to clean it, and then the phone rang. You left the room to answer the phone. In the meantime, your co worker, not realizing that you had already started the self cleaner, went to open the oven in order to start the cleaning process. Opening the
Who is Responsible? 52 oven door however while it was in the middle of the cleaning cycle let out a huge burst of hot air, which startled your co worker and set off the fire alarm. 1. How responsible are you for the outcome of this situation? Not at all responsible Completely responsible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 2. How responsible is your co worker for the outcome of this situation? Not at all responsible Completely responsible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 3. How likely is it that the outcome of this situation was due to chance? Not at all likely Completely due to chance 1 2 3 4 5 6 7