Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Waas, Gregory A.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Interpersonal relations in children; School children--Attitudes; School failure--Public opinion


The present study examined children's perceptions of two low-achieving peers as a function of the peers' displayed level of academic effort and whether the participants were able to discuss their beliefs as a group prior to providing responses regarding their perceptions of the peers. Fifth-grade boys and girls listened to short descriptions of two hypothetical low-achieving peers, one who displayed high effort and one who displayed low effort. Participants then provided Likert scale ratings of their attributional beliefs about and affective responses toward the two peers. Additionally, they rated their behavioral intentions toward the two peers, as well as their perception of the peers' cognitive ability. Half of the participants provided responses as individuals, without discussing the peers, while the other half of the participants participated in a short, semi-structured group discussion about the peers before providing their responses. All of the data was collected in gender-consistent groups of three, regardless of the discussion condition. Analyses indicated that the amount of effort a low-achieving child demonstrated, and whether the participants discussed the peers before responding, had a significant effect on the participant's subsequent attributional beliefs, affective responses, behavioral intentions, and perceptions of cognitive ability for the hypothetical peers. Relative to the high-effort peer, the low-effort peer was perceived as exerting lower effort, incited higher levels of anger and lower levels of pity, was less accepted, and was viewed as less intelligent. Group discussion was found to significantly affect children's ratings. Relative to children in the no-discussion condition, children in the discussion condition displayed polarized attitudes and intentions. In general, the polarization resulted in more positive ratings for the high-effort peer and more negative ratings for the low-effort peer.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [110]-115)


xii, 178 pages




Northern Illinois University

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