ERIC Number: ED258111
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1985-May
Effects of Explanation and Counter-Explanation on the Development and Use of Social Theories.
Anderson, Craig A.; Sechler, Elizabeth S.
Social theories (beliefs about relationships between variables in the social environment) are often used in making judgments, predictions, or decisions. Three experiments on the role of explanation processes in the development and use of social theories were conducted. The first experiment assessed the effects of explaining a hypothetical relationship between social variables on subsequent social theories by asking undergraduates (N=26) to create causal explanations for hypothetical outcomes to studies involving social variables. In the second experiment, undergraduates (N=43) in various experimental conditions explained possible relationships between a person's level of risk preference and his ability as a firefighter. The third experiment, involving 77 undergraduates, examined the effects of explanation-induced social theories on the evaluation of new, relevant, ambiguous data, and the effects of such data on one's final social theories. Explaining how or why two variables might be related led to an increased belief in and use of the explained theory. A counter-explanation task effectively eliminated this initial explanation bias. These explanation and counter-explanation effects occurred in a variety of theory domains, with simple belief measures, and with complex social judgments involving multiple predictor variables. Although new, nonemotional, explanation-induced beliefs did not lead to biased evaluation of new data, exposure to new data indicating a zero relation between the social variables in question, moderated but did not eliminate, the explanation-induced theories. (NRB)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A