Attributional and attentional patterns in the perception of ambiguous harmful encounters involving peer and authority figures
More details
Hide details
Maria Grzegorzewska University, Warsaw, Poland
Nottingham University, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Submission date: 2022-12-22
Final revision date: 2023-03-14
Acceptance date: 2023-05-31
Online publication date: 2023-09-21
Corresponding author
Anna Zajenkowska   

Maria Grzegorzewska University, Warsaw, Poland
Self-construal influences the way people ascribe blame to victims, but it is not clear whether the same applies to harm do-ers, especially those in a position of authority.

Participants and procedure:
We examined (N = 122, men n = 60) participants’ ascriptions of both blame and intentionality to harm doers (authority fig-ure versus peer) while priming self-construal (relational versus individual self). Using eye-tracking, we explored whether priming relational self, compared to individual self, affects the allocation of attention to faces versus objects.

Although no effects of priming were found, the type of harm doer influenced the way people interpreted harmful social encounters. Participants attributed both greater intentionality and blame to peer than authority perpetrators. Also, in the case of peer perpetrators, blame ascription was higher than judgements of intentionality, which was the opposite pattern for authority perpetrators, where judgements of intentionality were greater than ascribed blame. In regard to encoding, par-ticipants independently of the type of harm doer looked significantly longer at faces than at objects in violent scenes.

Our results suggest the status of perpetrator influences judgements of harm independently of intrapersonal factors, such as primed self-construal. Moreover, people perceived as authority figures are not blamed for the hurtful action, despite attribut-ed intentionality.

Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (2000). The mind in the middle: a practical guide to priming and automaticity re-search. In H. Reis & C. Judd (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology (pp. 253–285). Cambridge University Press.
Bègue, L., Beauvois, J. L., Courbet, D., Oberlé, D., Lepage, J., & Duke, A. A. (2015). Personality predicts obedience in a Milgram paradigm. Journal of Personality, 83, 299–306.
Bodecka, M., Jonason, K., P., & Zajenkowska, A. (2022). Hostile attribution biases in vulnerable narcissists de-pends on the socio-relational context. Journal of Individual Differences, 43, 70–78.
Chen, S., Boucher, H. C., & Tapias, M. P. (2006). The relational self revealed: Integrative conceptualization and implications for interpersonal life. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 151–179.
Cooper, W. H., & Withey, M. J. (2009). The strong situation hypothesis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 13, 62–72.
DeYoung, C. G., Peterson, J. B., & Higgins, D. M. (2002). Higher-order factors of the Big Five predict conformity: Are there neuroses of health? Personality and Individual Differences, 33, 533–552.
Diehl, M., Owen, S. K., & Youngblade, L. M. (2004). Agency and communion attributes in adults’ spontaneous self-representations. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28, 1–15.
Dodge, K. A. (2006). Translational science in action: Hostile attributional style and the development of aggressive behavior problems. Development and Psychopathology, 18, 791–814.
Doliński, D., Grzyb, T., Folwarczny, M., Grzybała, P., Krzyszycha, K., Martynowska, K., & Trojanowski, J. (2017). Would you deliver an electric shock in 2015? Obedience in the experimental paradigm developed by Stanley Milgram in the 50 years following the original studies. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8, 927–933.
Duchowski, A. T., Gehrer, N. A., Schönenberg, M., & Krejtz, K. (2019, June). Art facing science: Artistic heuristics for face detection: tracking gaze when looking at faces. ETRA ‘19: Proceedings of the 11th ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research & Applications, 1–5.
Gaertner, L., Sedikides, C., & Chang, K. (2008). On pancultural self-enhancement: Well-adjusted Taiwanese self-enhance on personally valued traits. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39, 463-477.
Gaertner, L., Sedikides, C., Luke, M., O’Mara, E. M., Iuzzini, J., Jackson, L. E., Cai, C., & Wu, Q. (2012). A motiva-tional hierarchy within: Primacy of the individual self, relational self, or collective self? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 997–1013.
Gert, B. (2004). Common morality: Deciding what to do. Oxford University Press.
Holmqvist, K., Nyström, M., Andersson, R., Dewhurst, R., Jarodzka, H., & Van de Weijer, J. (2011). Eye tracking: a comprehensive guide to methods and measures. Oxford University Press.
James, W., Burkhardt, F., Bowers, F., & Skrupskelis, I. K. (1890). The principles of psychology (Vol. 1, No. 2). Mac-millan.
Jayawardena, G., Michalek, A., Duchowski, A., & Jayarathna, S. (2020, June). Pilot study of audiovisual speech‐in‐noise (SIN)performance of young adults with ADHD. ETRA ‘20 Short Papers: ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research and Applications, 1–5.
Kelly, D., Stich, S., Haley, K. J., Eng, S. J., & Fessler, D. M. (2007). Harm, affect, and the moral/conventional distinc-tion. Mind & Language, 22, 117–131.
Levinson, C. A., Langer, J. K., & Rodebaugh, T. L. (2011). Self-construal and social anxiety: Considering personali-ty. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 355–359.
Lim, S. L., O’Doherty, J. P., & Rangel, A. (2011). The decision value computations in the vmPFC and striatum use a relative value code that is guided by visual attention. Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 13214–13223.
Magraw-Mickelson, Z., & Gollwitzer, M. (2018). Relational and group collective self responses to observed victim-ization across cultures. Social Justice Research, 31, 113–132.
Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224–253.
Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371–378.
Milgram, S. (1965). Some conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority. Human Relations, 18,.
Monroe, A. E., & Reeder, G. D. (2011). Motive-matching: Perceptions of intentionality for coerced action. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1255–1261.
Nichols, S., & Mallon, R. (2006). Moral dilemmas and moral rules. Cognition, 100, 530–542.
Orquin, J. L., Ashby, N. J., & Clarke, A. D. (2016). Areas of interest as a signal detection problem in behavioral eye‐tracking research. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 29, 103–115.
Oyserman, D., Elmore, K., & Smith, G. (2012). Self, self‐concept and identity. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 69–104). The Guilford Press.
Oyserman, D., & Lee, S. W. (2008). Does culture influence what and how we think? Effects of priming individual-ism and collectivism. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 311–342.
Piazza, J., Sousa, P., & Holbrook, C. (2013). Authority dependence and judgments of utilitarian harm. Cognition, 128, 261–270.
Plaks, J. E., McNichols, N. K., & Fortune, J. L. (2009). Thoughts versus deeds: Distal and proximal intent in lay judgments of moral responsibility. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1687–1701.
Sedikides, C., Gaertner, L., & Toguchi, Y. (2003). Pancultural self-enhancement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 60–79.
Sedikides, C., & Skowronski, J. J. (1990). Towards reconciling personality and social psychology: a construct ac-cessibility approach. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 5, 531–546.
Singelis, T. M. (1994). The measurement of independent and interdependent self-construals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 580–591.
Süssenbach, P., Eyssel, F., Rees, J., & Bohner, G. (2017). Looking for blame: Rape myth acceptance and attention to victim and perpetrator. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32, 2323–2344.
Thompson, S. J., Foulsham, T., Leekam, S. R., & Jones, C. R. (2019). Attention to the face is characterised by a difficult to inhibit first fixation to the eyes. Acta Psychologica, 193, 229–238.
Turner, J. C., & Onorato, R. S. (1999). Social identity, personality, and the self-concept: a self-categorization per-spective. In T. R. Tyler, R. M. Kramer, & O. P. John (Eds.), The psychology of the social self (pp. 11–46). Law-rence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
van Prooijen, J. W., & van den Bos, K. (2009). We blame innocent victims more than I do: Self-construal level moderates responses to just-world threats. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1528–1539.
Wainryb, C. (1991). Understanding differences in moral judgments: The role of informational assumptions. Child Development, 62, 840–851.
Wilkowski, B. M., Robinson, M. D., Gordon, R. D., & Troop-Gordon, W. (2007). Tracking the evil eye: Trait anger and selective attention within ambiguously hostile scenes. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 650–666.
Ybarra, O., & Trafimow, D. (1998). How priming the private self or collective self affects the relative weights of attitudes and subjective norms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 362–370.
Zajenkowska, A., & Konopka, K. (2015). Communion-orientation as an antidote for aggressive behaviour among high provocation sensitive individuals. Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 62–67.
Zajenkowska, A., & Rajchert, J. (2020). How sensitivity to provocation shapes encoding and interpretation of am-bivalent scenes in an eye tracking study. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 32, 180–198.
Zajenkowska, A., Kaźmierczak, I., Bodecka, M., Rajchert, J., & Batory-Ginda, A. (2021a). Demographic and con-textual factors impact a three-tier hierarchy of self-potency among community adults and inmates. Personality and Individual Differences, 180, 110988.
Zajenkowska, A., Bower Russa, M., Rogoza, R., Park, J., Jasielska, D., & Skrzypek, M. (2021b). Cultural influences on social information processing: Hostile attributions in the United States, Poland, and Japan. Journal of Per-sonality Assessment, 103, 489–497.
Zajenkowska, A. M., Bodecka, M., Duda, E., & Lawrence, C. (2022). Reduced attention toward faces, intentionali-ty and blame ascription in violent offenders and community‐based adults: Evidence from an eye‐tracking study. Aggressive Behavior, 48, 264–274.
Copyright: © Institute of Psychology, University of Gdansk This is an Open Access journal, all articles are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) License (, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license.
Journals System - logo
Scroll to top