Telling what they want to know: Participants tailor causal attributions to researchers’ interests

Examined if Ss' verbal responses will be influenced by their tacit inferences about the researcher's epistemic goals, derived from their knowledge of the researcher's academic affiliation. The research was based on a conversational analysis of experimental procedures and consistent with the principle of relevance. This prediction was tested in a core area of social-personality and cultural psychology, causal attribution. College students provided causal attributions about mass murder cases, while the questionnaire identified the researcher either as a social scientist or a personality psychologist. The results indicated that attributions were overall more situational than dispositional, and were qualified by an interaction between conversational cue and type of attribution. Thus, Ss gave relatively more situational explanations when the letterhead of the questionnaire identified the researcher as a social scientist compared to when the researcher was identified as a personality psychologist. The reverse pattern emerged for dispositional attributions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)