Effects of self-esteem, global disposition, and focus of awareness on social judgments
Miller, Lynn Elizabeth
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The present study focused on the influence of two potential sources of bias -- self-perceptions and dispositions toward others -- in social judgments. Drawing from information integration theory and work on implicit personality conceptions, it was predicted that the evaluative component of self- and other-perceptions would influence evaluative judgments, but not nonevaluative judgments. More specifically, individuals with high self-esteem and high global evaluative dispositions were expected to give more positive judgments of stimulus persons than individuals with low self-esteem and low global dispositions, respectively, and especially so under conditions of minimal stimulus information. Extrapolating from previous theorizing on the effects of self-awareness, focus of awareness was predicted to further moderate the influence of self-esteem and global dispositions on judgments. Thinking about oneself was expected to enhance the tendency to utilize self-evaluation in judgment-making, while thinking about others was expected to enhance the tendency to utilize global dispositions in judgment-making. To test these hypotheses, Coopersmith's Self-Esteem Inventory (cited in Robinson & Shaver, 1973) and Kaplan's Disposition checklist (1976) were used to partition individuals into four groups according to their self- or other-evaluations (high or low on each dimension). Focus of awareness was manipulated by a task which required that subjects rate either their own characteristics or characteristics of other people for approximately 20 minutes. Following the awareness manipulation, individuals read four-sentence descriptions of various contrived stimulus persons and rated them on an evaluative scale (Likable-Unlikable), a nonevaluative scale (Serious-Nonchalant), and two filler scales. The stimulus person descriptions of interest varied in informativeness for the evaluative and nonevaluative judgments, containing either 4, 2, or 0 sentences relevant to likableness and the remaining sentences relevant to seriousness. There were three replicate stimulus sets for each of the three ratios of amount of likableness to seriousness information. None of the hypotheses received clear support. Several competing explanations of the results were offered, with the seemingly most reasonable one being that the focusing task actually enhanced objectivity in judgment-making, rather than eliciting biases.