The SSB is the idea that people will usually declare themselves the reason for success in a task. But, will usually blame others or the situation if the task is failed. The researchers wanted to know if, in a task where two people work together, if whether a person decides to take credit for the outcome of the task (or attribute it to the partner) is contingent on the quality of the relationship (either distant and unfamiliar like strangers or close and familiar like friends). It was hypothesized that people of distant dyads would exhibit strong displays of the SSB; they would blame the other in failure and take all the credit in success. But, there was uncertainty of whether the SSB would apply in the same manner to close dyads. There are two competing theories over whether SSB will be shown in close dyads. The relationships-as-bound theory, stating that intimate others are a part of the self, supports the idea that SSB would not be exhibited.
To blame the intimate partner would practically be like blaming the self. The relations-as-enabler theory supports the idea that SSB would be exhibited. Relationally close people tend not evaluate each other negatively, as they do not wish to cause conflict. Even if one has honest sentiments which would hurt the other, they wouldn’t express it aloud. They adhere to each other’s self-image to reciprocally bolster their self-confidences and continuously reaffirm each other’s character. However, if unannounced to the other, one may reveal negative sentiments and manifest the SSB in a joint task. Researchers wanted to know which theory would be further confirmed with the following methods.
The experimenters tried to fabricate relational closeness between strangers. Their logic was, with using couples that genuinely knew each other, there was the potential that individuals would keep themselves from expressing SSB. For all the reasons mentioned regarding the relations-as-enabler. Making it so the dyad was truly unfamiliar made it so there was no expectation of interacting after the experiment and no fear of being disloyal. This makes an SSB response seem inconsequential to the participant.
Aside from that, dyads were asked not to talk about the experiment or even interact outside of the experiment if possible, which cemented the inconsequence. The logic here is good, but it will be attacked later. They were given a light cover story and were told that they would be working on a couple of unrelated studies. The first was the RCIT in which a series of personal disclosure questions were asked. The experimenter was absent during the RCIT, which is good consideration of environmental characteristics and control over observation bias. If the participant’s disclosures had any sort of effect on how the experimenter viewed the participant, or vice versa, then there could be a potential extraneous variable. After the RCIT, participants did a manipulation check where they were asked questions concerning how close they felt to the partner after the RCIT. This is a problem.
The cover up story doesn’t detract from the salience of this manipulation check. Many people would take the RCIT, see that the all the questions are pertaining to learning about each other’s character, and then read the manipulation check and immediately be given an insight into what the researchers are measuring. Participants were then given another light cover story saying they would be tasked with a creativity assignment. Those in the close relationship condition stayed with the person they’d taken the RCIT with. Those in the distant relationship condition switched to a new partner who had also taken the RCIT. As such, taking the RCIT was something all participants did and was controlled. All participants were told that they were taking the Lange Elliot Creativity Test, which has a realistic and professional sounding name.
The name makes it a better cover story than the first. Also, because participants are likely still caught-up in the first manipulation check. The test was allegedly looking to see how many uses for an object the dyad could come up with. They were told that would be given feedback and that it was normal. Participants were told that the uses they generated for an object and the uses their partner generated would be written down and placed together in a box. The participants were told the total number of non-repeated answers in the box would be added together to get a score of how creative they were.
Participants were asked how important creativity was to them as a manipulation check. The participants were then told of their scores. Their scores were referred to as “combined”. Participants in the close relation condition were assigned to either a condition where they were told their collective scores were good or that their collective scores were bad. Participants in the distant relation condition were assigned to either the good score or bad score condition as well. All in all, the independent variables are: type of relation with two levels of close and distant, type of score feedback with levels good and bad, and gender (but you asked to leave that out).
The dependent variable is the degree of SSB response as assessed by the final two questions about positive contribution and which partner was more responsible (before the final manipulation check). After, participants were told that the experimenters couldn’t figure out what answers each member of the dyad had contributed to the box. The participants, with guaranteed disclosure, were asked to answer two questions that would “help” the researchers. These questions measured SSB. Participants were asked who was most responsible and who made the greatest positive contribution to the task.
This is a fishy cover because most participants would know that, if the experimenter threw the answers into a box, that the participant would have no way of knowing the proportionality of the contributions. Participants were then asked to complete two more manipulation checks. They were asked how well they thought they did and how well they thought their partner did and how important the task was to them. In the results, they claim the RCIT was effective at creating relational closeness. Statistically, this may be so. However, the participants may have simply said they felt closer because of social desirability. They may feel like a bad person if they said they didn’t feel close to the person who just gave them such vast amounts of person information in such a small-time frame. Or, they could’ve believed that they must surely be close to this person now because of all the personal things they said, without considering the artificiality of the circumstance.
This may not be considered an internal validity problem. The issue here may generalizability towards genuinely close relationships. However, the very first manipulation check that asked how close participants felt to their partner is enough to deem this study as low in internal validity. Researchers asked what the importance of creativity was to participants.
Seemingly, to show that the participants were invested in the activity. This too is prone to some biases. Participants may try to justify doing creativity assessment to themselves post hoc. Creativity is a quality that’s socially pedestaled, so they may just fall into saying they value creativity to stray from dissonance.
The question should’ve been given to them before the task instead. Authors concluded that participants in close condition were more egalitarian in their distribution of responsibility for questions assessing SSB. The relationship-as-bound theory was what the authors confirmed, but I do not believe that causal attributions can be made regarding the results of this study. Random assignment is assumed, so subject characteristics are at the will of chance. However, primarily because of the corrupting nature of the cover stories, demand characteristics are high.