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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Perceived outcomes as related to the behaviour of assertive and nonassertive individuals in role playing tasks Cappe, Robin Elyse


In investigating the cognitive mechanisms which underlie nonassertive behaviour, assertion and nonassertion were examined from the perspective of decision making theory, specifically the Subjective Expected Utility (SEU) model which states that individuals maximize the product of utility and subjective probability when :.' making decisions in risky situations. This model was thus employed as a tool for assisting in the understanding of why assertive behaviour occurs in some situations and not others. The SEU model would assume that individuals consider the potential consequences of their behaviour when deciding whether or not to assert themselves. Sixty undergraduate university students participated in the study. Thirty were designated as high assertive and thirty as low assertive according to their scores on the Gambri11-Richey assertion inventory. Subjects were assigned to one of two SEU models: traditional or freeform. Participants were thus delegated to one of four conditions: high assertive - traditional SEU; low assertive - freeform SEU; low assertive - traditional SEU; low assertive - freeform SEU. Those in the traditional model received a list of possible consequences of asserting themselves in four assertion situations while freeform subjects generated their own perceived consequences. For each situation, all subjects rated the utility of these consequences and the subjective probability that each of the consequences would occur if the subject acted in an assertive or nonassertive manner. An SEU was then computed for each situation, for each individual. According to the model, an individual should select the course of action (i.e. assertion or nonassertion) which produces the larger SEU value for the situation. In a second session, participants role played situations comparable to those described on the questionnaire and their behaviour was rated by two "blind" observers. Four hypotheses were stated as follows: high assertives as a group will generate larger SEUs than low assertives; an individual's SEU will predict her behaviour in the role playing situations; SEUs generated in the freeform model should best predict subjects' role playing behaviour; high assertives will role play more effectively than low assertives. The four proposed Hypotheses were not confirmed -- evidence was not secured for different cognitions or behavioural competence between the assertive and nonassertive populations. Numerous pertinent methodological issues were considered including the validity of role playing tests, the population studied and the situations selected for role playing. In conclusion, the SEU model may be an inappropriate perspective to adopt for the purpose of understanding cognitions of assertive and nonassertive populations. Possible outcomes of behaviour may not be considered by persons in assertion situations. It was suggested that simpler cognitive models be explored for explaining interpersonal behaviour in situations requiring assertive behaviour.

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