An experiment examined individuals’willingness to excuse a romantic partner of blame for a transgression when perceptions that a relationship is risky are salient. Participants evaluated an actual transgression on measures tapping three levels of appraisal: (a) initial impressions of the act (i.e., severity of the transgression), (b) considerations of the context in which it occurred (i.e., judgments about excuses and extenuating context), and (c) judgments about its broader implications for the relationship (attributions of globality). Evaluator perspective was also varied. Half the participants (actors) evaluated their own partner's wrongdoing; half (observers) evaluated another participant's partner's wrongdoing. Compared to controls, risk participants rated the transgression as more severe and were more cautious and risk‐averse in assessing the merits of potentially excusing information. Evaluator perspective did not influence these judgments, a finding consistent with a cognitive interpretation of the results. In contrast, the effects of risk on judgments of globality were more pronounced among observers than among actors, suggesting that motivational pressures come into play when the evaluative stakes are higher.
Personal Relationships – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 1999
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