Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Waas, Gregory A.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology




Extensive research has accumulated regarding the existence of individual differences in the way people use behavioral information when making evaluative judgments of others. This study specifically investigated how first-grade, fifth-grade, and college-aged students may be oriented to evaluate the actions of peers in terms of dispositions (entity theorists) or in terms of situational/contextual and motivational factors (incremental theorists). To better understand how children’s entity or incremental orientations affect their evaluations of peers, several widely used measures of trait inferences (e.g., temporal stability, situational consistency, intent, and emotional prediction) and evaluative/predictive judgments (e.g., causal attribution and likability) were examined. Study 1 attempted to investigate the assessment of entity and incremental theorists across children and adults. Study 2 attempted to isolate important differences between entity and incremental theorists across social-evaluative dimensions, in the face of inconsistent information, and accuracy of behavioral recall. Study 1 consisted o f209 fifth- and sixth-grade participants and examined the reliability and validity of three measures via correlational, internal reliability, and factor analyses. The correlational analyses revealed modest relationships between entity-oriented scales; however, no correlation was found between one entity scale and an incremental scale. Internal consistency and factor analyses identified items in the entity/incremental scales that were not significantly contributing to the overall scales and were subsequently removed from the scales. A total of 180 first-grade, fifth-grade, and college-aged students participated in Study 2 examining differences in person perception as a function of age, theory orientation (entity vs. incremental), and behavior style of the target peer (aggressive vs. prosocial). No hypothesized main effects occurred between the entity and incremental theory groups in the study. However, several interactions were found suggesting that entity/incremental first graders made evaluative distinctions on the basis of their a priori orientations. Additionally, several grade main effects were observed, lending support to the development of social perception skills across grades. Fifth graders were more traitconsistent raters on measures of situational consistency, intent, and emotional prediction. The results suggest that attributional dimensions such as situational consistency, intent, and emotional prediction best separated first and fifth graders. These findings suggest that the development of entity/incremental orientation may occur as early as first grade and may have an effect on how young children interpret the actions of others.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [156]-161).


xvi, 247 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type