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Attributions and Outcomes: Hurtful Communication in Families
Unformatted Document Text:  Attributions and Outcomes 5 causes for others’ behaviors based on their perceptions. These causes may be determined to be exterior, and not under another person’s control, or interior, and subject to his/her control (Weiner, 1972). “Affective responses are determined primarily by ascriptions to internal versus external locus of control” (Weiner, 1972, p. 381). Weiner, Amirkhan, Folkes, and Verette’s (1987) research suggested that people are more forgiving of another’s negative behavior when they see the behavior as externally motivated, and therefore outside of his/her control. As might be expected, the opposite is also true: individuals judge another more harshly when they perceive the negative behavior to be internally motivated, and therefore under his/her control. In other words, interpreting another’s negative behavior as unintentional decreases the degree of responsibility ascribed to him/her, thereby softening the observer’s judgment of that individual. Previous research has looked at the role of intent in non-family relationships. Fincham, Bradbury, and Grych (1990) proposed that perceived intent was a key factor affecting attributions of blame. Other scholars have looked at perceived intent as a variable influencing perceptions of and reactions to hurtful messages. For example, Leary, Springer, Negel, Ansell, and Evans (1998) found that victims of hurtful actions were more upset when the actions were perceived as intentional than when the actions were perceived as unintentional. Similarly, Vangelisti and Young (2000) reported that recipients who perceived a sender’s hurtful comments to be intentional were generally less satisfied with the relationship and felt less close to the sender than recipients who perceived the comments to be unintentional. In addition, they found that comments that were perceived as intentionally hurtful also led to a greater distancing effect between relational partners than comments that were perceived to be unintentional. Clearly, the extent to which a hurtful message is viewed as intentional influences how people react to that statement.

Authors: Young, Stacy., Kubicka, Tara., Tucker, Caralyn., McCoy, Jamie., Kanaan, Kanaan., Johnson, Jarvis., Chavez-Appel, Desi. and Dinger, Michelle.
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Attributions and Outcomes
5
causes for others’ behaviors based on their perceptions. These causes may be determined to be
exterior, and not under another person’s control, or interior, and subject to his/her control
(Weiner, 1972). “Affective responses are determined primarily by ascriptions to internal versus
external locus of control” (Weiner, 1972, p. 381). Weiner, Amirkhan, Folkes, and Verette’s
(1987) research suggested that people are more forgiving of another’s negative behavior when
they see the behavior as externally motivated, and therefore outside of his/her control. As might
be expected, the opposite is also true: individuals judge another more harshly when they perceive
the negative behavior to be internally motivated, and therefore under his/her control. In other
words, interpreting another’s negative behavior as unintentional decreases the degree of
responsibility ascribed to him/her, thereby softening the observer’s judgment of that individual.
Previous research has looked at the role of intent in non-family relationships. Fincham,
Bradbury, and Grych (1990) proposed that perceived intent was a key factor affecting
attributions of blame. Other scholars have looked at perceived intent as a variable influencing
perceptions of and reactions to hurtful messages. For example, Leary, Springer, Negel, Ansell,
and Evans (1998) found that victims of hurtful actions were more upset when the actions were
perceived as intentional than when the actions were perceived as unintentional. Similarly,
Vangelisti and Young (2000) reported that recipients who perceived a sender’s hurtful comments
to be intentional were generally less satisfied with the relationship and felt less close to the
sender than recipients who perceived the comments to be unintentional. In addition, they found
that comments that were perceived as intentionally hurtful also led to a greater distancing effect
between relational partners than comments that were perceived to be unintentional. Clearly, the
extent to which a hurtful message is viewed as intentional influences how people react to that
statement.


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