The impact of situational variables on helpers' perceptions of comforting messages: An attributional analysis

Susanne M Jones, Brant R. Burleson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research indicates that people consistently perceive highly person-centered comforting messages as providing the most effective and sensitive emotional support. However, research on helping suggests that attributions about the cause of the distressful event (blame) and its solution (control) may influence what people perceive to constitute appropriate help. This study assessed how attributions of blame and control influenced evaluations of comforting messages varying in level of person centeredness. Participants (N = 342) read about a situation in which a sad target was either responsible or not responsible for the problem and either could or could not influence the outcome of the situation. Messages low in person centeredness were viewed as more appropriate with high blame targets, whereas messages high in person centeredness were viewed as more appropriate with low blame targets. Perceptions of situation controllability did not influence evaluations. The study also detected gender differences in perceptions of comforting messages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)530-555
Number of pages26
JournalCommunication Research
Volume24
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes

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