Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Ellis Gesten, Ph.D.

Keywords

Social cognition, Social skills, Peer influence, Hostile attribution, Emotion

Abstract

There is increasing recognition that contextual aspects of social situations are important determinants of children's social information processing. While it is generally accepted that friends influence children's social behavior, the immediate influence of a friend in specific conflict situations is less understood. Contextualized vignettes depicting hypothetical peer conflict situations were developed to examine the impact of situational context, namely a friend's suggested attribution and an antagonist action cue, on students' social information processing. A repeated measures design examined the proximal influence of situational context on 4th and 5th grade students' (N=367) own intent attributions, emotional reactions, and response evaluations to hypothetical peer conflict scenarios. Results indicated that situational context is important to students' social cognition. Students adjusted their social cognition and emotion in response to cues to an antagonist's intent and were influenced by a friend's comments during peer conflict scenarios. Students' responses were more aligned with the antagonist's action than a friend's suggested attribution. However, a friends' attribution was influential in situations where it conflicted with the antagonist's action. Results of this study help to increase knowledge regarding the context of social cognition and can assist in the development of more ecologically valid social skill interventions.

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