tom XXVII / numer 3Weronika D. Trzmielewska, Paweł Brzóska, Experimentally manipulated agentic self-perceptions

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Artykuł jest dostępny na warunkach międzynarodowej licencji 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

* Ethical approval for this study was obtained at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (SWPS University) from the Ethics Committee for Scientific Research, Faculty of Psychology in Poznan (No. 2018-06-01). Datasets underlying the presented study are available at https://osf.io/azn2w/?view_only = 092dbc69b19142e1b19d4b712002e304

Introduction

Mounting evidence suggests that one’s perceptions and those of other people are socially defined in interactions and vary with the situations one participates in or the roles that one plays (e.g., Turner et al., 1994). People perceive their world in ways that facilitate completing current goals, and their perceptions are a function of the roles they are taking in a given social interaction (Peeters, 2001, 2008). The most social interactions involve two dynamically changing roles: actor vs. observer or leader vs. follower (Jones, Nisbett, 1987; Magee, Galinsky, 2008; Enfield, 2011). The roles on the left-hand side of these equations (i.e., actor, etc.) refer to people who try to make sense of their own behavior, whereas those on the right-hand side (observer, etc.) refer to people who try to make sense of other people’s behavior (Malle, Knobe, Nelson, 2007). On the dual-perspective model (DPM; Abele, Wojciszke, 2007, 2014), it is assumed that people can perceive themselves and others from two perspectives: (1)as  the  agent,  i.e. a person who performs an action and exerts control over their own situation, and (2) the recipient, i.e. a person who mostly concentrates on experiencing other people’s actions. Assumptions from the DPM extend the other theoretical concepts of the dual perspectives (e.g., actor–observer; Jones, Nisbett, 1971). For example, on the Jones and Nisbett model, the perspective of the actor is mostly associated with the observation and interpretation of the actor’s behaviors. The observer’s perspective is linked to the observation and interpretation of other people’s behaviors (attributive asymmetry hypothesis; Jones, Nisbett, 1987). Attributive actor–observer differences promote many cognitive deformations (e.g., biases; Jones, Nisbet, 1971).

In the DPM model, it is assumed that in order to generate social perceptions, each party in an interaction attends to information that conforms to their role. When someone adopts the agent perspective, they will pay more attention to the efficacy of their own actions; when they adopt the recipient perspective, they will monitor and place greater weight on the other’s actions and their consequences for both the recipient and others (Baryla et al., 2019). On that model, both the agent and the recipient perspectives can be related to one’s own and other people’s interpretations of behaviors. In the agent perspective, one may perceive and interpret their own and other people’s behaviors through the agency dimension (which is related to self-enhancement cognitions and behaviors; Abele, Wojciszke, 2014). When someone takes the recipient perspective, they may perceive and interpret their own and others’ behaviors through the communal dimension (which is related to cognitions and behaviors focused on other people’s needs; Abele, Bruckmüller, 2011; Wojciszke et al., 2011).

The malleability of adopted perspectives

There are individual differences in the extent to which people may take each perspective. A person can be more likely to adopt one of the two perspectives in their daily functioning (Abele, Wojciszke, 2014; Baryla et al., 2019). Still, these two perspectives can be taken dynamically in response to different (1) situations or (2)social roles (Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). Studies on this topic, however, are in their infancy (Wojciszke, 1994; Abele, Bruckmüller, Wojciszke, 2014; Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). In one study, the participants either interpreted their behaviors (the agent perspective) or the behaviors of the other people (the recipient perspective; Abele, Bruckmüller, Wojciszke, 2014). In another study, the two perspectives were elicited through (1) a role-playing procedure, in which participants pictured themselves performing (the agent perspective) or observing other people’s actions (the recipient perspective), or (2) a thought-reconstruction manipulation, in which participants reconstructed potential responses to a person acting (agent perspective) or to a person receiving the action (recipient perspective; Wojciszke, 1997). In the second study by the same author, participants recalled events from their past, including recollections of their own (agent perspective) or another person’s behaviors (recipient perspective; Wojciszke, 1994). In the studies described above, the effects of the experimental manipulation of the perspectives were not checked (i.e., no measure or control questions were implemented; Wojciszke, 1994, 1997; Abele, Bruckmüller, Wojciszke, 2014).

In another series of studies, the various manipulation types were used to induce the agent and the recipient perspectives in people (Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). The agent perspective was activated by (1) having the intention to act (e.g., participants recalled events from their past where they had been acting), or (2) the influence of motor experience (e.g., participants were pumping an inflatable chair). The recipient perspective was activated through (1) the subjective experience of receiving (e.g., while participants were sitting, they were monitoring any sensations they had) or (2) by the experience of being the subject of another person’s actions (e.g., participants recalled events from their past where they had been subjects of other’s actions). In Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke study (2019) the effects of induced perspectives were checked with a few control questions. The questions self-reported control over the situation (e.g., “I felt I had control over the x situation” for agents) or, for example, degree of sense of performing vs. receiving other people’s actions (e.g., “I focused on performing some action” for agents and “I focused on experiencing various sensations” for recipients). In general, manipulations worked as expected.

The current study

The study aimed was to evaluate the effectiveness of certain manipulations to activate the agent and the recipient perspectives through a modified validated questionnaire, and control questions (Baryla et al., 2019). In the prior studies, there was usually either no measurement of the effectiveness of activated perspectives (e.g., Abele, Bruckmüller, Wojciszke, 2014) or there was only a control questionimplemented (e.g., Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). In this study, a validated questionnaire was used, with modifications to the measurement of feelings experienced in the current moment, though not dispositions.

The following hypotheses were tested:

Hypothesis 1. People with activated agent perspectives will define themselves more as agents compared to those with activated recipient perspectives, and those in the control condition.

Hypothesis 2. People with activated recipient perspectives will define themselves more as recipients compared to those with activated agent perspectives and those in the control condition.

It was also tested if:

– (R1) people in the agent perspective condition more strongly perceived them-selves through agentic self-concepts compared to those in the recipient perspective condition and the control condition (agentic self-concepts may vary based  on  situational  factors,  especially  in  the  context  of  performance  or achievements; e.g., Abele, Rupprecht, Wojciszke, 2008);

– (R2) people in the recipient perspective condition more strongly perceived themselves through communal self-concepts compared to those in the agent perspective condition and the control condition (communal self-concepts can be more sensitive to factors related to social contexts, such as involvement with other people; e.g., Uchronski, 2008).

Method

Participants

Data for this study was collected at SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poznań in exchange for course credit. The whole sample consisted of 90 participants (40 women), aged from 18 to 50 (Mage= 27.00, SDage = 7.45; with two missing values, i.e. the two participants did not report their ages), randomly assigned to the agent perspective condition (N = 29), recipient perspective condition (N = 29) or control condition (N = 32). Most of the respondents were recruited from psychological faculties.

Measures and materials

Control questions. There were four control questions that tested the effectiveness of the actual experience manipulation (see Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019, Study 3): 1.“I felt I had no control over the situation”, 2. “I had a capacity to act”, 3. “I focused on performing some action”, 4. “I focused on experiencing various sensations”. There were also four control questions that tested the effectiveness of episodic recall manipulation (inspired by Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019, Study 6): 1. “I was thinking about my feelings”, 2. “I was thinking about the action that I was performing”, 3. “I was thinking whether I was effective or not”, 4. “I was thinking about somebody’s influence on me”. Each item was rated using a 7-point Likert scale (from 1 = definitely no to 7 = definitely yes).

Agent and recipient perspective. To measure the perceptions of the agent and the recipient perspectives, the perspective questionnaire was used (Baryla et al., 2019). The participants were instructed to report feelings experienced in the current moment. The measure consisted of 20 items, 10 concerned the agent perspective (e.g., “I like to make decisions”) and 10 items concerned the recipient perspective (e.g., “I really care about what other people are doing”). Each item was rated using a 7-point Likert scale (from 1 = definitely not to 7 = definitely yes). A mean was computed for each perspective (Cronbach’s α was .87 for the agent perspective and .84for the recipient perspective).

Agentic and communal characteristics.To measure the perceptions of agentic and communal self-concepts, the agency and communion scales were used (Wojciszke, Szlendak, 2010). The participants were instructed to report feelings experienced in the current moment. The measure consisted of 30 items, 15 concerned the agency self-concept (e.g., [I am] “competent”), and 15 concerned communal self-concept (e.g., [I am] “kind”). Each item was rated on a 7-point Likert scale (1 = definitely not to 7 = definitely yes). A mean was computed for each dimension (Cronbach’s αwas .88 for the agency self-concept and .90 for communal self-concept).

Experimental manipulation

In the agent perspective condition, the participants pumped up an inflatable chair using an air pump for five minutes (see Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019, Study 3; the actual experience manipulation). The participants were also instructed to focus on that physical activity. Next, they were asked to sit in the inflated chair (the one they had pumped) and to recall the situation when they were in the role of agents for five minutes1 (inspired by Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019, Study 6; episodic recall manipulation). In the recipient perspective condition, the participants were instructed to sit in an already pumped inflatable chair for five minutes and then they were asked to keep their attention on the sensations that they were experiencing (Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). Next, while sitting in a pumped chair, the participants were instructed to recall the situation when they were in the role of recipients for five minutes2 (inspired by Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019, Study 6). In the control condition, the participants just sat for ten minutes and completed the two measures.

1 The participants were given the following instruction: Please recall an event from your life when you performed some action and focused on performing it as best you could.

2 The participants were given the following instruction: Please recall an event from your life when you were the recipient of someone else’s action and you experienced the consequences of it.

Procedure

Participation was individual with one research assistant (male or female) present. The participants had been informed about their rights and the general aims of the study. The cover story explained that the task of pumping up an inflatable chair (the actual experience manipulation) was not related to the next episodic recall task. The participants were informed that they were asked to pump up the chair (or sit in it) to put their minds at rest (see Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019, Study 6). The participants were randomly assigned to the experimental conditions. First, the participants were asked to perform the actual experience manipulation, and then the episodic recall task. Next, they were asked to fill the two measures of perspective and self-concepts, and answer control questions. After that, they were thanked, debriefed, and, if necessary, awarded course credit points.

Analysis

The design was between-subjects. To test whether the randomization was successful ANOVAs (for age) and χ2 tests (for gender) were performed. Furthermore, a series of Student’s t-tests were performed to test differences in control questions between agent and recipient conditions. The two one-way ANOVAs were performed to test the main hypotheses, with the condition as a factor and (a) agent perspective and (b) recipient perspective as dependent variables. The same two one-way ANOVAs were conducted to test additional hypotheses, with the condition as a factor with (a) agency and (b) communion as dependent variables. Post-hoc comparisons were performed with Bonferroni adjustments. Other tests were performed without any further adjustments.

Results

Descriptive statistics, and manipulation check

Randomization was successful for age F(2, 85) = .13, p = .881, η2 = .23, in the agent perspective condition (Mage = 26.45, SD = 6.28), the recipient perspective condition (Mage = 27.11, SD = 6.91), the control condition (Mage = 27.41, SD = 8.93), and gender ratio χ2(3, N = 89) = 1.05, p = .788. The participants reacted to the manipulation mostly as expected. In the agent perspective condition they felt that they had a stronger capacity to act, they focused more strongly on action performance, and they felt less that they had not no control over the situation than participants in the recipient perspective condition. In the recipient perspective condition, the participants focused more on experiencing external sensations than in the agent perspective condition. In the second part of the manipulation (i.e., episodic recall task), the agent perspective condition participants were thinking about their performance, and whether they were effective to a higher degree than those from the recipient perspective condition. In the recipient perspective condition, they were thinking about their feelings and somebody’s influence on them more than in the agent perspective condition (Table 1). Table 2 contains the descriptive statistics for study variables.

Table 1. Descriptive statistics and t-test for control questions

Table 2. Descriptive statistics for all variables in each conditio

Main effects

The experimental manipulation affected the perspectives assumed. The participants in the agent perspective condition had a higher agent perspective than those in the recipient perspective condition, and the control condition, F(2, 87)  =  13.20,p < .001, η2 = .233. There were no significant main group effects in the recipient perspective degree, F(2, 87) = .16, p = .855, η2 = .00 (Figure 1).

3 Both post-hoc analyses were significant at p < .001.

Figure 1. Mean differences in the perspectives between conditions

Note. ** p < .001; error bars = 95% confidence intervals.

A similar pattern was found for agency and communion self-concepts (Figure2). The participants in the agent perspective condition had higher agentic self-concepts than those in the recipient perspective condition, and the control condition, F(2, 87) = 11.79, p < .001, η2 = .214. There were no significant main group effects in the communal self-concept degree, F(2, 87) = .17, p = .847, η2 = .00.

4 The both post-hoc analyses were significant at p < .001.

Figure 2. Mean differences in agency and communion between conditions

Note. ** p < .001; error bars = 95% confidence intervals.

Discussion

The present experiment tested whether the used manipulations would induce the agent and the recipient perspective, and additionally, the agentic and communal concepts measured on the questionnaires and control questions. As expected, the manipulation was effective for the agent perspective (and agentic self-concepts). However, contrary to the predictions, there were no group differences for the recipient perspectives (and communal self-concepts). The effects sizes were similar to those from previous studies (Bialobrzeska et al., 2018; Baryla et al., 2019).

When the participants pumped up an inflatable chair and focused on events in which they were performing some action (i.e., in the agent perspective condition), they had higher agent perspective scores than those (1) who were sitting in the chair and kept their attention on the sensations that they were experiencing and who recalled an event in which they were the recipients of someone else’s action (i.e., in the recipient perspective condition), or those (2) who just sat for a while (i.e., in the control condition). This is a novel result in the field of social cognition research. Similar experimental manipulation methods were used in former studies, but their effectiveness was not tested with proper questionnaires (Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). The findings obtained in the present study are consistent with the theoretical assumptions from the DPM model, in which a person with the agent perspective is generally the one who has the ability to act in a social situation (Abele, Wojciszke, 2014). It must be, however, mentioned that a subjective interpretation may be a factor that may cover up a situational disposition to take a particular type of perspective. Therefore, the agent perspective can not only result from characteristics of the role (position) one takes, but also from a subjective interpretation (perception) of such a role (Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). Importantly, in the current study, the people in the agent condition described themselves as having a higher capacity to act, a stronger focus on performing an action, and higher control over the situation than those in the recipient condition. They also were thinking about their performance, and that they were effective to a higher degree than in the recipient condition. Therefore, activation of the agent perspective was found to be effective when tested either with a self-reported questionnaire or with control questions.

Contrary to expectations, the experimental manipulation used in this study did not change the recipient’s perspective level. Similar manipulations were used in other prior research (e.g., Wojciszke, 1994; Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019), and accordingly there were expectations that the manipulations implemented in this research project would be successful. Future studies should increase the clarity of the roles that participants engage in when completing the task as recipients. It might be best to assign people to particular roles they may be familiar with from their social and professional lives, or include more contextual cues to alert participants to the need to shift roles (Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). When this context is absent, one perspective (the agent or recipient) may not be dominant. People in such situations can find themselves between the recipient and the agent roles. Researchers should try to investigate the activation of recipient perspectives by placing more attention on dichotomies in social roles that occur in natural settings.

This  study  also  attempted  to  determine  whether  agentic  and  communal self-concepts will be activated through experimental manipulations used in the experiment. This distinction implies that core self-concepts can be insensitive to situational factors and, paradoxically, that socalled working self-concepts (i.e., the current self-concepts) may be sensitive to external factors (e.g., Markus, 1977; Markus, Wurf, 1987; Uchronski, 2008). In the current experiment, self-agency was activated through (1) physical effort (i.e., pumping a chair) and (2) recollection of a past event where participants had been in the role of a person who performs some action. These results were generally consistent with theoretical assumptions that people’s agentic self-construal may be affected by situational circumstances, such as the experience of success in action, or by the experience of motor actions (Abele, Rupprecht, Wojciszke, 2008; Shibuya, Unenaka, Ohki, 2018). Importantly, agency can be defined differently – as a sense that a person is the one who is causing an action and who can recognize actions that are self-produced from those produced by other people (Gallagher, 2000). A sense of agency can be also defined in terms of one’s own personal control, but not in terms of the actions of others (Damen et al., 2015). The feeling of agency might be also activated by motor action on the level of neural processes (Farrer et al., 2003). In future research, it is worth taking a closer look at those diversities and controlling it.

It was also predicted that the self-communion would be activated through (1)experiencing external sensations, and (2) recollection of past events in which participants had been in the role of a person who was the subject of someone else’s action. For example, in earlier research it was found that people with an experimentally induced recipient perspective may put communal values and norms over agentic (Wojciszke, 1997). Consistently, when empathizing with other people, individuals described themselves as more communal than those who did not take the perspective of other people (Uchronski, Abele, Bruckmüller, 2013). It seems that in the current study the experimental manipulation was insufficient to activate communal self-perception. Communal self-concepts can be especially sensitive to factors related to social contexts, rather than those related to external, albeit inanimate, objects such as sensations (Abele, Wojciszke, 2014).

Study limitation and future directions

The first limitation of the current study is related to sampling. Relying on a student sample may narrow generalizability (Richmond et al., 2015). For example, students can be more psychologically homogeneous than non-students (e.g., Peterson, 2001). Furthermore, the sample size was rather small, and the real effect sizes would have been too small to detect with the actual sample size. In ANOVA analyses, the smallest effect size that could be detected with adequate power (.80, α = .05) was f  =  .33; furthermore, in post-hoc comparisons between two groups, the smallest effect size that could be detected with adequate power was Cohen’s d = .75.

The next limitation is related to study design. There were no baseline scores for the dependent variables, so it was impossible to analyze the changes from base-line, either by looking at absolute variations or a percentage change from baseline. Unfortunately, there were also no control questions implemented in the control condition. Such data would help infer the results, especially due to the lack of baseline measurement for the study variables. Future studies should utilize baseline measures of perspectives scores (and self-construal ones) to resolve these issues. Further-more, in this study, self-perspectives (and self-construal) were manipulated with two methods. In former studies, one of the manipulation methods – episodic recall or recall of a person’s actual experience (i.e., of a person’s motor action, or receiving external stimuli) – was usually used to influence the perspectives (Wojciszke, 1994; Abele, Bruckmüller, Wojciszke, 2014; Bialobrzeska, Parzuchowski, Wojciszke, 2019). It was assumed that both methods had worked as expected, although, it was not checked which method was more effective, or which could possibly affect the study results. In future research, it would be worth changing the order of the tasks per-formed or implementing measures immediately after each manipulation. Doing so would make it easier to conclude whether the methods may affect each other. Last, the implemented measures (i.e., the perspective questionnaires and agentic and communal scales) originally were validated to test dispositions, not states. It seems that work on such measurements is still ongoing. Researchers should keep that limitation in mind when drawing conclusions.

Conclusions

It seems easy to alter the agentic self-perception (agent perspectives and agentic self-concept) by physical effort and focusing on it, as well as by thinking about past events when someone performs some action. On the other hand, sitting in a chair and focusing on one’s sensations, as well as a recollection of the event in which one was the recipient of someone else’s action, did not influence the recipient perspective or communal self-concept. These results are valuable because they show the effectiveness of the manipulation through validated questionnaire measurement (especially in the context of the agent perspective). Therefore, the results proved that manipulations used in this study refer to changes to psychological variables that the authors expected (i.e., the activation of perspectives and self-concepts).

The findings may provide important insights for practitioners because the activation of self-related cognitions may influence the way information about the self and the other is processed (Brewer, Gardner, 1996). Generally, when people are in an agentic self-perception, they may be empowered through feelings of success, power, or personal control (e.g., Baryla et al., 2019). In future studies, it will be necessary to test whether the effect of manipulation refers to a short- or long-term influence, and exactly how long it lasts, to make it easier to use knowledge from such research.

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Rocznik: 2022

Tom: XXVII

Numer: 3

Tytuł: Experimentally manipulated agentic self-perceptions

Autorzy: Weronika D. Trzmielewska, Paweł Brzóska

PFP: 301–315

DOI: 10.34767/PFP.2022.03.03