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The role of cognitive attributions of causality in the maintenance of conflict negotiation behavior Harper, Brian R.


This study was based upon the general thesis that individual performance expectations, attributions of causality and actual performance outcome interact to affect the maintenance and generalization of performance demonstrated during training. It compared the relative effectiveness of a management skill training program which included specific negotiation skills and "attribution structuring" components (designed to affect both expectations and causal attributions) with a similar program that included skill training only. "General Performance Orientation", a hypothesized cognitive structure, comprising "efficacy" prediction and causal attribution, was operationally defined to include four levels: i) success - internal; ii) success - external; iii) failure -internal; and iv) failure - external. A questionnaire which measured locus of control and required respondents to predict their success or failure on a hypothetical negotiation task was distributed to all students in an administrative management program at a technical training school. One hundred and four volunteers from this population were classified into three groups (one cell was empty as no subjects predicted success with an external causal attribution). Equal numbers of subjects from each group were then randomly assigned to each of the training programs. During the course of training all subjects engaged in a simulated negotiation task and completed a post-task questionnaire which (i) measured their locus of control; (ii) assessed their evaluation and attribution of causality for their performance on the task; and (iii) asked them to predict their performance in a similar future situation. The simulation task was repeated in a "non-training setting" four weeks after completion of the training program. Subjects' performance on the post-training simulation task was expected to be affected by an interaction between initial performance expectations, type of training experienced, and the type of causal attribution employed in explaining their performance during training. The relationships among measured locus of control, performance expectations, and causal attributions were investigated: i) prior to performance, ii) in reference to actual cause of performance effectiveness, and iii) post-performance. Analysis of scores on the negotiation task four weeks following completion of training revealed that the experimental training group scores were significantly higher than those of the traditional training group. There was not a significant difference between group scores on the negotiation task at the final training session. The data were also supportive of the hypothesized interaction among locus of control, causal attributions, and performance expectations. The hypothesized relationship between locus of control and successful performance was not supported.

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