Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Applied Experimental Psychology


Past research suggests that emotions, arousal, and goals affect how children reason in social situations, but, thus far, there has been very little research on how these variables interact. It has been hypothesized that emotion could affect any area of social information processing directly, but it has also been hypothesized that emotion might have an indirect effect on social information processing. Therefore, a primary hypothesis of the current study was whether emotion influences each step of social information processing directly or whether emotion influences social information processing indirectly by first influencing goal orientations which, in turn, influence the other areas of social information processing. Because there is evidence that aggressive children's social information processing may be disrupted by negative mood, I also examined whether mood affects aggressive children's social information processing more than that of nonaggressive children. The participants were 480 ungraded primary children enrolled in five different elementary schools from two school districts. Participants were tested in two sessions on different days. The first session consisted of sociometric testing. The second session consisted of a mood induction procedure, in which children were induced to feel either angry, happy, or neutral, followed by the response evaluation interview. Three provocation vignettes were presented, and after each vignette, competent, hostile, and inept responses were presented one at a time. For each type of response, children were asked to evaluate the instrumental and social relational consequences as well as the ease/difficulty of performing the response. Results from the current study provide further support for the hypothesis that emotion affects social information processing indirectly by first influencing children's goals which then affect social information processing. It also provides evidence that children's goals for certain situations are actually better predictors of children's selfefficacy beliefs than are children's social statuses. Our study also found results similar to past research that suggested rejected-aggressive children are more sensitive to negative arousal than are accepted-nonaggressive children. The current study did not include the negative emotions sadness and fear. Like anger, sadness and fear are also states of negative arousal; however they could induce a different set of goals and self-efficacy beliefs than does anger. Hence, more research that includes the study of sadness and fear is needed. The current study revealed an indirect influence of emotion on response evaluations. However, nothing is known about the effect of emotion on the other steps of social information processing, such as encoding of information, attribution of intent and response selection. It could be, that, rather than indirectly affecting encoding and attribution of intent, emotion could directly affect how children encode information from their environment and the attribution of their peers' intentions. Because little is known about the effect of emotion on these steps of social information processing, future research should investigate this area further.


Clinical Psychology | Psychology