Author

Dina M. Casey

Date of Award

5-2006

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Joel A. Gold

Second Committee Member

Donald S. Hayes

Third Committee Member

Cynthia A. Erdley

Abstract

This research investigaed the role of emotion in social information processing and examined whether children with behavior patterns other than aggression process social information in a unique manner. Testing hypotheses derived from Crick and Dodge's (1994) model of social information processing, the first study assessed shy, aggressive, and nonshy/nonaggressive children's beliefs about their emotions and a protagonist's emotions at the model's representation step and at the response search/access step by varying a protagonist's intent in fictional scenarios. The second study assessed whether correct labeling of a protagonist's emotional state would eliminate shy children's tendency to underattribute hostility and aggressive children's propensity to attribute a hostile intent to a protagonist in social situations. In the first study, a number of findings indicated that, compared to nonshy/nonaggressive children, both shy and aggressive children process social information differently. First, shy children described themselves as more scared in ambiguous and hostile scenarios, and as more scared after selecting a behavioral response in a hostile scenario than other children. Second, compared to other participants, shy children (especially boys) described a protagonist as madder and sadder in ambiguous scnarios. In addition, aggressive boys rated a protagonist as happier and as more thankful than other children after deciding a protagonist's motive in accidental scenarios. Finally, in a hostile scenario, aggressive children described a protagonist as sadder than nonshy/nonaggressive children after selecting a response. In the second study, certain labeling effects were found, supporting the suggestion that attending to the emotional state of others affects shy children's and aggressive children's interpretation of others' motives. First, compared to children in a no label condition, shy children were more likely to attribute a hostile intent to a protagonist described as angry. Second, aggressive children were more apt to exhibit the hostile attribution bias when a protagonist was depicted as sad than when no emotional information was provided. The results of this research support the importance of examining emotion's role in social information processing and the extension of the model's applicability to the behavior pattern, shyness.

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