Date of Award

1980

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Albert Silverstein

Abstract

This study investigated the relationship between responsibility ascriptions and teacher evaluations of pupils' achievements, emphasizing the examination of differential intention and effort effects. The purpose of this study was to clarify distinctions between information about "intention" and information about "effort" that are suggested by the underlying theory of attribution but have been neglected in prior experimental tests of the theory. An additional purpose of the study was an examination of the theoretical assumption that ascriptions of responsibility mediate evaluative judgments.

It was hypothesized that both situational and motivational cues would affect evaluative judgments. It was predicted that locus of outcome consequence would affect evaluations such that positive evaluations for success and negative evaluations for failure would be intensified when the outcome had effects for others as well as for the student performing the action. On the basis of theoretical propositions it was predicted that intention cues and effort cues would have different effects on evaluations. It was also hypothesized that motivational cues would affect responsibility ascriptions, and that there would be positive relationship between responsibility ascriptions and evaluations.

Packets of stories were presented to 72 teachers of grades three through six. Half of the subjects received 18 stories with an individual outcome consequence and half received 18 with a group outcome consequence. Half of the subjects in each situation first made evaluations of and then determined personal responsibility of the students in each of the stories, while half of the subjects completed the tasks in the reverse order. Stories varied on two motivational cues, intention (high, average, low) and effort (high, average, low), and outcome (pass, fail). Evaluations were made according to an eleven point scale, ranging from 5 (high positive) to -5 (high negative); responsibility ratings were made on a scale from 1 (not at all responsible) to 5 (completely responsible).

Previous findings regarding locus of outcome consequence were not supported. Evaluative judgments were significantly affected by intention, effort, and outcome, with interactions found between intention x outcome and between effort x outcome, and with different patterns apparent for intention effects than for effort effects. Effects of effort on evaluation were magnified when evaluations were obtained after responsibility was overtly ascribed. Responsibility ascriptions were significantly affected by outcome and by motivational cues, with interactions between outcome x intention and outcome x effort. No significant correlations were found within conditions between evaluations and responsibility ratings, but the patterns of results for the two measures were highly similar.

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