Skip to main content Accessibility help

Accessibility of Diagnostic Categories and Causal Attributions for an Interviewee's Behaviour

  • Anthony W. Love (a1) and Henry J. Jackson (a2)


Cognitive factors, such as the accessibility of schematic categories, have been shown to bias interpretation of information about other's behaviour. In this study, the effects of diagnostic category accessibility on subjects' causal attributions for an interviewee's behaviour were investigated. In order to activate a specific diagnostic category, making it more accessible for information encoding, mental health students completed a short test. Half answered questions about victims of rape attacks; the other half answered questions about the diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder. All subjects then rated their attribution for a female interviewee's non-verbal behaviour along four dimensions: Internality, Stability, Globality, and Controllability. Results indicated an interaction between type of course and experimental condition. Psychology undergraduate students in the Rape Victim condition tended to make more stable and global attributions than did Psychiatric Nursing and Masters of Psychological Medicine students. In addition, a significant main effect was found on the Controllability dimension. The subjects in the Personality Disorder condition rated the cause as significantly more controllable than did the subjects in the Rape Victim condition. Implications of the results are discussed.


Corresponding author

Department of Psychology, La Trobe University, Bundoora Vic. 3083


Hide All
Arkes, H. R. (1981). Impediments to accurate clinical judgment and possible ways to minimize their impact. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 41, 323330.
Bishop, J. B., Sharf, R. S. & Adkins, D. M. (1975). Counselor intake judgments, client characteristics and number of sessions at a university counseling center. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 22, 557559.
Brickman, P., Rabinowitz, V. C., Karuza, J., Coates, D., Cohen, E. & Kidder, L. (1982). Models of helping and coping. American Psychologist, 37, 369384.
Cantor, N. & Mischel, W. (1979). Prototypicality and personality: Effects of free recall and personality impressions. Journal of Research in Personality, 13, 187205.
Einhorn, H. J. & Hogarth, R. M. (1978). Confidence in judgments: Persistence of the illusion of validity. Psychological Review, 85, 395416.
Harris, M. J. & Rosenthal, R. (1986). Counselor and client personality as determinants of counselor expectancy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 362369.
Jackson, H. J. & Tierney, D. (1984). On the relationship between psychiatric diagnosis and behavioural assessment. Behaviour Change, 1, 1016.
Janoff-Bulman, R. (1979). Characterological versus behavioral self-blame: Inquiries into depression and rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 17951809.
Love, A. W. & Jackson, H. J. (1988). Effects of diagnostic information on a clinician's impressions of an interviewee. Australian Journal of Psychology, 40, 5359.
Nisbett, R. & Ross, L. (1980). Human inference: Strategies and shortcomings of social judgment. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Smith, D. & Kraft, W. A. (1983). DSM-III: Do psychologists really want an alternative? American Psychologist, 38, 777785.
Srull, T. K. & Wyer, R. S. (1980). Category accessibility and social perception: Some implications for the study of person memory and interpersonal judgements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 841856.
Weiner, B. (1985). An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 548573.
Wills, T. A. (1978). Perceptions of clients by professional helpers. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 9681000.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Accessibility of Diagnostic Categories and Causal Attributions for an Interviewee's Behaviour

  • Anthony W. Love (a1) and Henry J. Jackson (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.