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Role of Selective Attention in Illusions of Social Acceptance and Aggression in Children

Title: The Role of Selective Attention in Illusions of Social Acceptance and Aggression in Children.
Name(s): White, Bradley Alan, author
Kistner, Janet, professor directing dissertation
Padavic, Irene, outside committee member
Joiner, Thomas, committee member
Kelley, Colleen, committee member
Loney, Bryan, committee member
Department of Psychology, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2005
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: While some researchers theorize that holding positive illusions about oneself optimizes psychosocial functioning, mounting evidence suggests that positive illusions have a "dark side." Aggressive children often overestimate their social functioning, which may place them at risk for further adjustment problems. Conversely, underestimation of social functioning has also recently been linked to aggression. Despite accumulating evidence for links between perceptual biases and aggression, the mechanisms underlying these associations and the conditions under which they operate are poorly understood. The present study examines these relationships, investigating whether an "optimal" level of perceptual bias exists that minimizes reactive aggression. It was hypothesized that the link between overestimation and reactive aggression reflects the operation of an underlying ego-defense mechanism, specifically, suppression of attention to social threat cues. It was further proposed that this link is independent of effects of proactive aggression and moderated by depression and trait anxiety. To test these hypotheses, children in the 4th through 7th grades completed a probe detection task measure of attentional biases as well as self-report measures of emotional and social functioning. Teachers reported on children's actual social functioning, aggression, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that perceptual bias and aggression have a curvilinear relationship. Overestimators and underestimators show higher reactive aggression, even after controlling for proactive aggression. Contrary to predictions, this association was enhanced rather than attenuated by depression and trait anxiety. There was no evidence that low to moderate overestimation of social acceptance is optimal in terms of minimizing reactive aggression. Contrary to predictions, only depressed overestimators showed suppressed attention for social threats. Furthermore, effects of perceptual bias extended beyond attentional suppression for social threats to include suppression for physical threats. Finally, attentional suppression failed to predict reactive aggression. Collectively, these findings did not support the hypothesis that suppressed attention for social threats functions as the ego-defense mechanism underlying the association between overestimation and reactive aggression. Implications are discussed with regard to future research and potential interventions for aggressive children.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-1089 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Psychology in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Summer Semester, 2005.
Date of Defense: June 15, 2005.
Keywords: Peer, Developmental Psychopathology, Self-Esteem, Information Processing, Self-Perceptions, Teacher Ratings, Cognitive, Encoding, Behavior Problems, Antisocial, Mediate
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory committee: Janet Kistner, Professor Directing Dissertation; Irene Padavic, Outside Committee Member; Thomas Joiner, Committee Member; Colleen Kelley, Committee Member; Bryan Loney, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Psychology
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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White, B. A. (2005). The Role of Selective Attention in Illusions of Social Acceptance and Aggression in Children. Retrieved from