Attribution of responsibility for an accident as a function of outcome severity, deservability, and locus of control
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Carl I. Greenberg
Gaylon L. Oswalt
One hundred male and female undergraduate students served as mock jurors. Subjects read four automobile accident summaries. For each case, subjects judged the defendant's responsibility, the plaintiff 's responsebility, and evaluated the severity of consequences. In each case, the deservingness of the victim to suffer, and the severity of the accidental consequences were varied. In addition, a median split was done on subjects' locus of control scores to define a third treatment variable. Therefore, the study was a 2 (Internal vs. External) x 2 (High Severity vs. Low Severity) x 2 (High Deservingness vs. Low Deservingness) mixed factorial design. Results indicated that subjects compensated plaintiffs and defendants in line with hypotheses derived from equity theory for the distribution of rewards and punishments. Specifically, defendants received harsher punishments when the accident consequences were more severe for the plaintiff than for less severe consequences. However, when plaintiffs were in high deservingness to suffer situations (intoxicated but just below legal limit) compensation was less than for more respectable plaintiffs in low deservingness to suffer situations (nondrinking). Subjects' locus of control scores were found to only affect the extent that responsibility was derogated to plaintiffs. That is, externals attributed more responsibility to plaintiffs than internals. Results are discussed with regard to equity theory.
Adams, William H., "Attribution of responsibility for an accident as a function of outcome severity, deservability, and locus of control" (1978). Student Work. 323.