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Setting the Story Straight: A Study of Discrepant Accounts of Conflict and their Convergence

Nelson, Sarah E
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Psychology, Graduate School of the University of Oregon.

It is well know that actors and observers differ in their attributions for everyday actions. While these difference in how people interpret their own and others’ behaviors are pervasive, they become particularly significant when the behavior is perceived as a transgression. The conflicting perspectives of the transgressor and victim as well as the differing judgments of responsibility and intent that follow can lead to conflict, distress, and even violence. The following three studies confirm the discrepancy between victim and transgressor attributions for a transgression, explore what happens where these conflicting perspectives come face to face, and investigate how the different parties’ “storiesâ€? of the transgression can be reconciled. In the first study, college students thought of a transgression either they had performed or of which they were the victim and provided explanations and ratings of blame, intent, and controllability. As predicted, victims and transgressors provided different explanations for the acts, and victims assigned more blame and intent than transgressors. The second two studies tested a model of conflict resolution according to which disclosure and perspective taking would lead to conflict resolution through increasing shared understanding between two parties. The second study examined audio taped mediations sessions between offenders and either their victims or community members representing the victims. The tapes were coded for instances of perspective taking and self-disclosure. Mediations involving the victim were more successful and included more self-disclosure by the victim than community member mediations. Perspective taking and disclosure behaviors of victims/community members and offenders were distinctively predictive of mediation outcomes. To more stringently test the model, a third study was conducted under controlled laboratory conditions in which roommates were audio taped discussing conflicts. Author’s abstract.


AbstractEvaluation/StudyReportRJ and the WorkplaceRJ in SchoolsRJ OfficeTeachers and StudentsVictim Offender Mediation
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