Theories of relationships and personality

Tutor Assessed Question 1 (total word count: 259)

Describe a study that has been used to investigate implicit personality theory. Provide at least two evaluation points for the study that you have used.

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Implicit personality theory explains the biases used by a person when meeting an unknown person, producing impressions using limited initial information. Asch (1946) was the first psychologist to broadly research into this, discovering that when receiving information about a person; we place our focus and importance on part of the information basing our opinions about the person on these central traits. Schul and Burnstein (1985) stated that once we have formed an opinion and think we know them, we chose to construe or disfigure information received later to fit in with our opinions, supporting Asch’s (1946) research. However, Wishner (1960) opposed Asch (1946) arguing that importance needs to be placed on the environment in which the situation is as certain people behave in a certain way in depending on their surroundings, for example a teacher has to be strict in a classroom.

Describe a study that has been used to investigate the nature of social stereotyping. Provide at least two evaluation points for the study that you have used.

Sheldon (1940) related three main body types to different personality traits concluding that the two bare a relationship. Endomorphs are plumper therefore are associated with love/comfort, mesomorphs are muscular therefore are associated with criminal activity as they are competitive and assertive and are seen to be more likely to commit whereas ectomorphs focus on the nervous system and brain therefore are associated to the need of privacy. Hartlet et al. (1982) reanalysed the theory finding that delinquency was connected to mesomorphy, supporting Sheldon. However, Ryckman et al. (1989) stated that due to their big strong body, mesomorphs are perceived to be brave and popular rather than as criminals whereas ectomorphs are supposed to be intelligent and neat.

Tutor Assessed Question 2 (total word count: 633)

Write a short essay which describes and evaluates theories and research studies relating to the attribution of causality. Discuss the idea that one theory of attribution can adequately explain the reason for behaviour.

The attribution theory states that as soon as we meet an unknown person and confront them and their behaviour, we instantaneously embark on forming an opinion about them without acknowledging any further information, beginning to process potential reasons as to why this behaviour is occurring; however, it vital to remember that this occurs when the behaviour or the person themselves seem strange and out of the norm. There are several reasons as to why this behaviour transpires, ranging from mere happiness to overdose of alcohol to insanity. These reasons are completely diverse and different therefore it is highly important to look at other indicators to assess what the problem is and why it is occurring. All these processes are known as attribution processes as we attribute causes of behaviour from the way an individual may be behaving. One major setback that can immediately be identified is that the theory classifies and overlooks all the rules and laws used by society to determine rationales for certain actions. Heider (1958) proposed that people perceive that human behaviour is caused one way or another rather than mere chance. This then gives us the opportunity to conclude that this behaviour has the probability to occur again.

Causal attribution was initially looked into by Einhorn and Hogarth (1986) who stated that in most situations, there are several causes but we place more focus and importance on the person rather than the situation therefore we associate cause to the person in the situation rather than the situation itself. Weiner (1980) believed that causal attributions establish reactions to success and failure. This was explained through a classroom setting a greater sense of success is achieved when receiving a high mark in a subject by a teacher who rarely gives high marks rather than from a teacher who always gives high marks. Students with higher self esteem ratings and with high achievement levels attribute their success to internal factors and blame failure to external factors such difficulty to task. For example, a comparison between students with learning disabilities and students with no learning disabilities showed that the students with the disability were less probable to attribute failure to unstable elements but tended to attribute their failure to internal factors such as ability. Similarly, Daly (1996) researched the attributions employees held explaining failure at work in receiving bonuses and promotions, establishing reactions to failure, supporting Weiner (1980). Causal attribution helps justify differences in incentives between low and high achievers stating that high achievers approach difficult tasks and situations rather than evading them. These is due to the fact that they are confident in themselves and believe that they will succeed in this task and if failure occurs then it is blamed on external factors such as bad luck, causal attribution thus helps build self esteem through success. However, those who have low self confidence and are low achievers avoid success related tasks as they distrust their own abilities or believe that success is related to factors they have no control over so even if they are successful it is not seen as a rewarding experience.

However, Ross (1977) proposed the Fundamental Attribution Error which is the tendency to emphasize internal characteristics to clarify someone else’s behaviour rather than considering external factors. To test this hypothesis, Ross, Amabile and Steinmetz (1977) separated two groups with one including a question master who asked the rest of his team a group of self made questions and the group observing the process, judging the knowledge shown by the question master and the team. This proved that it would be unproblematic to create questions difficult for others to answer, projecting you as an intelligent person. Analysing the results showed that the observers and question answerers did not make allowances for the situation, all making the fundamental attribution error.

Tutor Assessed Question 3 (total word count: 153)

What could be the cause/s of the attributional bias that these staff hold? Explain this in terms of their individual cognitive and motivational factors?

Biased attribution held

Cognitive factors

Motivational factors


Kimberly is lazy and has no sense of time He also has other engagements and does not want to be late due to Kimberly as he is prompt.

Mustafa may have heard this from other staff members as well before meeting her therefore has perceived her to be constantly late.

Kimberly and Mustafa may be professional competitors therefore Mustafa perceives her to be a threat.

He also is determined to get to the gym on time so is punctual and does not want to ruin his plans for her.


Kimberly is not a fault, in fact is a victim of bad traffic. Kimberly and Martha may be good friends.

Martha may know Kimberly personally therefore has a positive opinion on her.

Martha may also be an optimistic person, trying to look at the good side.

Martha may not have very many friends therefore is excited to see Kimberly to have a good chat.

Tutor Assessed Question 4 (total word count: 187)

Describe at least two strategies that you have used in social encounters, including self-monitoring, disclosure and self-presentation? Were these strategies effective?

One strategy used in social encounters is ‘modelling’ which is a technique used to measure our own behaviour, giving us the ability to maintain posture, eye contact and non verbal cues during social interaction. This technique was taken from Bandura’s (1986) social learning theory which places importance on learning through observation. This behaviour is influenced by the environment as well as themselves; therefore copying behaviour displayed by someone else is an effective technique to regulate social behaviour.

Another strategy used in social encounters is self monitoring which helps identify the type of person you are. It suggested that a diary is kept by an individual to take constant and regular notes of feelings, especially negative ones such as depression or anxiety. Each time a feeling would be noted down, extra notes need to be placed with it explaining the situation, other people’s response, and post event feeling. The results display whether self monitoring needs to be continued to regulate social behaviour. This technique is particularly helpful as it gives the opportunity for an individual to go past their behaviour, pinpointing the irrational beliefs which underlie the behaviour.

Tutor Assessed Question 5 (total word count: 159)

Describe the major factors associated with the formation of relationships. Also explain why the above data did not work out for Jade.

The major factors related to the formation of relationships are physical attractiveness which includes height, weight and behaviour; propinquity which is critical as it increases familiarity; and similarity in attitude, personality and demographics as we like people who agree with us, they are seen to be complementary and are comparable to us. In Jade’s case, initially, from what Jade had seen online, she was physically attracted to her date as he was taller than her which she found attractive, but in reality was a short, quite aged man, which she did not find physically attractive. Demographically, they had nothing in similar as he lived with his mother, whereas Jade is independent and would potentially want to move to an exotic place. And lastly, their attitude and personality are also quite diverse as Jade was open and honest about her career, but her date lied to her about his occupation. In the end, Jade did not find herself to be compatible with the man as none of these factors matched.

Tutor Assessed Question 6 (total word count: 249)

Evaluate the major theories associated with the maintenance of friendships, including balance, equality and social exchange theories.

There are three main theories related to the maintenance of friendship: the social exchange theory, the equity theory and the balance theory. The SET offered by Thibaut and Kelley (1978) assumes that individuals seek to improve their rewards and decrease their costs. Another main assumption of the theory is that the rewards given and received to and from the same person should be equal. Cropanzano and Mitchell (2005) supported the SET by stating that if the rule of reciprocity is abided by, then this leads to a loyal friendship. On the other hand, the theory implies that the rewards an individual expects are in comparison to a base from which the person learns to expect. Flynn (2003) demonstrated that the observed significance for rewards changes over time. The equity theory is an extension of the SET including that an imbalance of costs and rewards is reasonable if the condition is accepted by all. De Maris (2007) support this theory by finding that the main reason for relationship breakdown was the feeling of poor equity faced by women as they felt they put in more than they received. Duck (1982) argued that relationships need to be viewed as processes, proposing his phase model of dissolution of relationships. The balance theory proposes the view that we chose friends who will help us aiding us in having a balanced view of the world. Newcomb (1961) tested this and found that students with similar values and attitudes were more likely to become friends.

Tutor Assessed Question 7 (total word count: 106)

Briefly referring to theory and evidence, pick one of the above scenarios and outline the reason/s why the relationship has broken down. (Scenario 2).

The investment model applies appropriately to scenario 3 as the partners were committed which maintained their relationship for years. They both may have been satisfied and found that the reward of living as a family was satisfying, nonetheless, now feel that they are not happy and their investment into the relationship is not substantial as it was before. The two individuals are now making rational processes to make the decision of not staying together as the balance of costs against benefits does not show a personal advantage. The benefits of living as a happy family are not there anymore as the children are adults and independent.

Tutor Assessed Question 8 (total word count: 203)

The model of relational dissolution: draw a flow diagram to show the stages of dissolution (breakdown) of a relationship. Then evaluate the theory you have used.

Duck’s (1982) model recognize the breakdown stages of a relationship, offering techniques to repair the broken. For example, Stage 1 gives one or both partners the opportunity to identify the problem, therefore giving the chance to fix the problem, allowing the relationship to have a work through period. However, Brehm and Kassin (1996) wanted to place focus on the dissimilar reasons for marriage problems for males and females stating that Duck’s (1982) model is more appropriate for women and their problems. Due to this, Duck’s (1982) model has been altered over time and significant changes have been made considering gender needs. Duck and Rollie (2006) included the Resurrection Phase where partners re-evaluate the relationship, finding a mutual path to have another attempt at the relationship.

Tutor Assessed Question 9 (total word count: 90)

Relational repair: describe a model of relational repair. Then provide an example of a celebrity couple for whom this model can be applied. What was the cause of the difficulty and what was done to repair the relationship?

Rusbult (1987) proposed the investment model which highlights commitment to be the most important factor. A celebrity couple which underwent relationship breakdown were Ashley and Cheryl Cole who, even after all the controversy with both individuals being defamed as unfaithful, managed to stay together. The problem was that Ashley Cole could not remain committed and performed adultery and the issue was overcome by examining the relationship, balancing costs and rewards and looking at the quality of other substitutes to determine commitment and find reasonable responses and fixes to the problem.


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