The influence of perceived academic effort on the social acceptance of low-achieving children
Huenecke, Todd M.
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The present study examined children's perceptions of low-achieving peers in light of Attributional Theory, which predicts that perception of effort influences subsequent attributional beliefs, affective responses, and pro-social intentions. Second-, fifth-, and eighth/ninth-grade children listened to short descriptions of two low-achieving hypothetical peers who demonstrated high or low academic effort. Participants rated their attributional beliefs about and affective responses toward the target peers. Participants also rated their intentions toward the peers in both academic and non-academic settings, as well as their estimates of the peers' cognitive ability. Finally, participants completed a recognition task for information presented about the peer. Analyses indicted that the amount of academic effort a low-achieving child demonstrated had significant effects on participants' beliefs, as well as affective and behavioral intentions toward the peer. Specifically, ratings of responsibility were discrepant between the two peers, with the low-effort peer viewed as most responsible for the negative outcome. The low-effort peer provoked the greatest anger, and the least pity and liking. Furthermore, the low-effort peer was less likely to be helped or accepted by participants. The converse was partially true for the high-effort peer, who was not disliked, received more pity, and was more likely to receive help and acceptance. Additionally, these basic outcomes were apparent in varying degrees across genders and grades. Girls indicated greater feelings of pity and intentions of helping and acceptance, whereas fifth graders in general, and fifth-grade boys in particular, were most negative in their attributions, affective responses, and intentions of helping and accepting the low-effort peer.