Personality Psychology (740)






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02/12/2018

Marshall & Brown (2006)

Filed under: Uncategorized — drcb @ 11:15 am
19 Comments to “Marshall & Brown (2006)”
  1. Ashley Olivera says:

    Ashley Olivera
    Marshall & Brown (2006)

    Study two reminds me of the 1946 Asch study, in which two groups of participants were given a set list of an individual’s attributes and asked to express their impressions as to how they thought the person was. Both lists had the same set of traits, except for one distinct difference, one group was told the hypothetical person was warm and the other cold. These words alone affected the judgement of the participants significantly. I don’t think the second study necessarily provides insight to the participants’ aggressive tendencies and reactions towards a provoked situation. Given the interpretative nature of the second study, where participants were provided with a fictitious character that was described as either easy-going or hostile, the participants’ given responses were based on how they believed the character would react in the given situation. This doesn’t necessarily mean the participant’s themselves would react in the same exact manner as they assigned the character.

    Although the third study was conducted slightly different, in which the participants state how they themselves will react when provoked in the same given situations as the second study. It is still difficult to predict whether the participants will react in the way they think they might. It is possible that individuals may have feelings of frustration or aggression, but there is no sure way of knowing one will act out on such feelings. I feel that when conducting such a study, low self-esteem must also be taken into account, because it may significantly affect how participants would react even when one is provoked. For example, such provoked situations may instead cause feelings of helplessness and emotional instability for individuals who have been bullied or mistreated in the past and have never fully stood up for themselves.

    • Hande says:

      Ashley, that was a great point you made. That particular S. Asch study was to see what traits or words carry more weight on impressions. Warm & Cold were the only ones participants focused on out of all the list of traits. This shows us certain words are more loaded with associations. In study 2, “aggressive”, “angry”, “hostile”, “irritated”, “upset” are also loaded with associations as the participants made comments like; has a short fuse, is thin-skinned.

  2. Emnet Gammada says:

    In reading this article, I thought their findings on situational strength illuminate the nature-nurture debate. In our first two classes we have discussed that people who score high on a trait manifest a trait-relevant behavior with little situation provocation while those who score low on a trait exhibit the relevant behavior only after a great deal of situation provocation. In social psychology, there is usually use of strong situations as they have been described as ones that provide clear guidelines for behavior and minimize the role of interpretation. In contrast, whenever, I think of personality research I often thought they used weak situations to see if a particular trait will manifest in the individuals behaviors as they lack clear guidelines for behavior and maximize the role of interpretation. The findings of this study however suggest that a weak situation may not be optimal for eliciting traits but rather that there needs to be some moderate situations (provocation) for traits to manifest. That is, as situational strength increase, the effects of personality differences become attenuated. Thus, as a researcher you want to have just enough situational strength to produce behavior in those who are high on a trait, but not strong enough to produce a behavior in those who are low in a trait. These findings elucidate how traits interact with situations to affect behavior. In their conclusion, Marshall & Brown state that the TASS model is most applicable to traits that have a biological basis like anger and anxiety than traits like conscientiousness and honesty. I am not familiar with the research on these other traits, but are these authors suggest that they are more situationally controlled than traits like anger and anxiety? I found this conclusion a little confusing.

    • Ashley Olivera says:

      I completely agree with your statement. If any given individual, whether they are low or high on aggressiveness, will be provoked given the situational strength is strong enough. Does that really give much insight to how we as individuals process aggression or anger? Can we truly count on these findings to demonstrate how aggressive tendencies function? Like I have mentioned in my reaction post, it may be different for those who know all too well what it’s like being the victim and having difficulty openly express ones’ aggression in such situations. However, it can be implied that aggression can typically be processed in the same manner with the exception that individuals process it in different levels.

    • Tiara Newson says:

      Well said Emnet. I also related this article to social psychology’s contribution to situational behavior. The authors’ findings on situational strengths are very interesting and enables one to relate those findings to behaviors seen in actual social situations. That being said, whether biological traits, like aggression, compared to those seen to not be biological, like conscientiousness, are only affected by the TASS model is something they should look further into. The authors did mention they were not sure if this is so, but do seem to be geared towards the TASS model only being effective for biological traits. That just may not be so.

  3. Karen Abraham says:

    This article was enlightening about the ways in which researchers create situations in order to provoke situational states in participants with which to measure the interactions of traits with behavior considering the chapter’s description of the difficulty in accomplishing this task. The TASS Model felt intuitive as I read it, and I think it did a good job of simplifying the complexity of interactions between traits and situations. However, I was confused by some of the choices of the experimenters. The study suggested that their provocations produced low, moderate, and highly provocative situations by providing somewhat harsh feedback on a 10-minute essay. I wonder if these are generalizable to the range of situations a participant might find themselves in, or if these might be granular distinctions between provocations within a low provocation subsection of situations. This speaks to the main issues brought up in the chapter regarding the difficulty in parsing traits from situations. I also had questions regarding the study of anger. In the self-reported feelings of composite anger in all three studies, I wondered why they used the simple high TA/low TA distinction when The Buss-Perry Aggression scale includes a specific subscale of anger. It seems like they would have had the data to do a more in-depth study of experiences of anger in response to the study provocation and trait anger. Such an exploration might have provided further insight into the relationship between self-reported traits and provoked emotions. I was also curious about the emotion scale that assessed composite anger scores. I wonder if there was not a validated measure of negative emotions that might have better captured that construct of the amount of anger a person experienced in response to a provoking situation. This may speak to the somewhat inconsistent findings around anger as opposed to the findings on aggression.

  4. Hande says:

    I found Marshall & Brown (2006) study informative and thought-provoking even though I don’t entirely agree with all. I am not familiar with TASS model but it was interesting to learn it suggests the traits will show themselves the most, in situations of medium strength. I believe the reason for that is threshold for traits will greatly differ in people.
    Marshall & Brown also added, high TA people will react more aggressively towards ambiguous or moderate level provocation than low TA people, whereas low TA people will react stronger in a higher-level provocation. The threshold to react to different levels of provocation will vary in low and high TA people.
    There are couple of studies by Dodge, authors mentioned that looked up similar hypothesis as they do. Specifically, one with high TA and nonaggressive boys in three different conditions (benign, ambiguous and hostile peer intent) and they also found similar results with Marshall & Brown. When I tried to find this specific study, authors mentioned I wasn’t able to but I would’ve liked to learn more about it. As the authors did not go into much detail.
    Personally, I found Study 2 to be not very clear. Every time, you look into some sort of layperson view there are so many factors you need to account for. Having said that, questions comes to mind how actually “naïve” their participants were? After all, they were undergrad students and likely took an into psychology course since they participated in this study in exchange for a course credit.
    On the other hand, Study 3 was the most interesting one since participants predicted their own behaviors for a situational provocation. This is always fascinating to read about since many people lack the self-awareness and they can be way off with their presumed actions in these hypothetical situations. The participants with high in TA were accurate with having a short fuse in minimal provocation. I think TA is something you do not need much self-reflection or awareness since it’s a trait that is greatly observable. College students and in this case higher women participants could’ve skewed the results and the authors mentioned these limitations as well. I also think mood would’ve had an effect on how people respond to these provocative situations.

  5. Daniel Saldana says:

    In reading Marshall and Brown (2006), a couple of questions came up regarding the methodology. In Study 1, they piloted a series of feedback statements, which were then used to elicit an aggressive response. They then asked participants to indicate the extent to which they experienced five emotions—aggressive, angry, hostile, irritated, upset—which were then collapsed into a single variable of “anger.” I found trouble in both understanding why they did this and in how these emotions were not clearly defined. For example, some of those emotions could be constructs more relatable to other feeling states. I mention here feeling states because “angry” and “anger” only differ semantically in relation to a person (e.g., their state of being or the quantity of said emotion). Regardless, “upset” can be an emotion that more closely relates to a feeling of sadness or depression. Granted, there are overlaps between emotional constructs and different traits. Yet it makes me questions what is actually being measured in the study. Specifically, when participants receive criticism from one of the three feedback statements and they rate themselves as “upset,” it is not known whether they are “upset” because of underlying anger or “upset” because of underlying sadness or low self-esteem. I believe the fact that the level of experienced anger only went up to 5.61 out of 10 may speak to this to an extent. I also found the hypothetical situations problematic. I find it hard to believe that getting criticism on an essay would elicit trait aggression. I put myself in the hypothetical situation and even asked others. The consensus answer was that it would hurt our self-esteem, but not cause anger. If so, then these situations may more closely tap into the person’s “irritability” as a construct of trait depression not of anger as a construct of trait aggression. In any case, I would expect the results to have remained the same, regardless of what is really being measured here. Nevertheless, I think the three studies and the results really do speak to how people are really more psychologically aware of their own and other’s behaviors and how these behaviors interact with different situations.

    • Gabriella Robinson says:

      I agree with you Daniel, in reading this article I too felt as though it highligthed that people are very psychologically aware of their own and other’s behaviors/emotions. Overall it appears people are able to role take and place themselves in someone else’s shoes or have high theory of mind, and not necessarily empathy but at least a possible ability to understand/recognize the emotions of others. I too however felt as though the actual emotions/traits measured in the study could’ve differed from that which the experimenters suggested they were measuring. I think your thought that it could possibly be sadness instead of anger is a good one, as it makes sense that self-esteem could be impacted from criticism. When I read it I thought of the negative feedback of being rated negatively in relation to the next task that they were asked to do, which was choose the decibel level. I thought this could’ve been a measure of perceived weakness (which after reading yours I didn’t think to make the connection to low self-esteem, instead of having lowered self-esteem I initially thought they may perceive that they need an edge on the other participant in terms of decreasing that person’s possible superior skill by increasing the decibel they hear during the task)

    • Safa Shehab says:

      I agree that it was not a good idea to average out those 5 emotions into the construct of anger. I would also like to add that in terms of methodology, the way in which the authors piloted the statement that were meant to engender different levels of provocation was not very specific, as they had people rate the “valence” of feedback statements as opposed to rating the level of anger they would experience if this statement was directed towards them. Another issue with methodology I have to add (and really bothers me) is that many analyses and models were conduced in each study without correcting p value for multiple comparisons in the analyses (which might have made some of the results non-significant).

  6. Tiara Newson says:

    Marshall and Brown’s TASS model studies greatly emphasized the connection between situations and traits. The authors first explain that traits are both dispositional and situational, either based off of your traits, or based off of your specific situation. Lately the same topics in psychology have been appearing in each of my three classes. For a while now all of the classes have been focused on traits and impressions. Right before reading this article I was just taught about the importance of dispositional and situational behavior in my social psychology class. I found this to be a very interesting intake on behavior. Sometimes it does appear that we have who we are and then we have who we are during certain social situations, and do not realize that our environment or even a specific trait within us can cause a change in our behavior. The participants in the studies were identified as having either a high aggression level or low. It isn’t really unexpected for someone with a high level of a trait to increase that level when a situation fits. But it is interesting that someone who doesn’t typically have high levels of that trait, in fact, is considered to have a low level, show more of that trait in high social situations then those who do. Even though this seems odd, I understand why it may be so. As the article mentioned in its introduction, from Murray’s press concept, “Behavior can either be pushed from within or pulled from without.” As this relates to TASS, I believe when we are under high pressure situations we become very sensitive to our environment and our emotions. Whether positive or negative, sometimes the situation may push a reaction out of us that isn’t a part of our disposition. Or pull in reactions from our environment that the situation may deem fit.

  7. Caroline Nester says:

    While I enjoyed many aspects of reading the Marshall and Brown (2006) article (for instance, the conceptual and theoretical clarity of the TASS model presentation, and the general accessibility of the study design), I found some facets of Study 2 to be wanting. In describing the selection of participants for Study 2, the authors note that the 90 participants were classified as high or low in trait aggressiveness (TA), utilizing the same dichotomy of scores on the Buss-Perry Aggression scale employed throughout this article. However, the focus of this study is not on the TA of the participants themselves, rather on the participants’ ability to gauge the traits of aggressiveness others. Why then would they separate their participants into low or high TA, but not control for this inherent personality difference of their participants in the analyses? I cannot help but think that one’s level of aggressiveness (high or low) might impact his or her judgment of that same characteristic in others. While I am no social psychology expert, might not something like the False Consensus bias – i.e. thinking that other people think the same way you do – cause people who are high on TA to be more likely to view others as prone towards aggressive behavior? Likewise, might not those low on TA more readily assume that other people might be as mild mannered as they themselves are? I think this could have been an interesting variable to explore as a potential 4th study in this article: the influence of personal level of aggressiveness on judgement of others inclination towards aggression. Additionally, I noticed that the authors took great care to select a gender-neutral name of “Chris” as the subject of their vignettes. However, I can’t help but feel that the gender of the subject in a potentially aggressive scenario plays an essential role. One could argue that it is easier to imagine a male as being aggressive, hostile, or angry than a female in the same situation. This common gender difference is broadly ignored throughout the entirety of this article and is an arguably fundamental flaw in the study design.

  8. Emela Nurja says:

    I found that this article brought up great points about aggressive traits and had great overall ideas of the aspects to look into when considering an individual’s traits within different situations. However, I felt that the article could have used better and more specific experimental examples in order to get a more in-depth study of anger. Furthermore, I felt that study one could be relevant to anyone in that type of situation. Maybe the intensity of aggression might not be as high to those who are normally on the lower end of the trait aggressiveness but will most likely demonstrate high emotions of disappointment.
    What I also found interesting is the participant pole they used. I know the author had also mentioned a number of limitations one of which being individuals used in all of the studies might have skewed the results however, because these studies only consist of reactions of College students my question now stands, how would these results be relevant to the outside world? I feel that study one especially, would not work well with individuals who are not in school just because, students are constantly working hard, being graded and critiqued on their work whereas individuals who either passed that stage of life or did not go through that process might not have strong reactions. Therefore, I strongly feel that another course of study/experiment would work better for individuals outside of College.
    What I also found fascinating is within study three. Many people and I myself find it hard to determine our own behaviors in different circumstances and being more self-aware of situations. It is interesting to know that these individuals were more self-aware towards their own behaviors despite whether they scored high in TA or low in TA. Interestingly, I would have actually thought individuals who scored high in TA would not make themselves too accountable on their behavior knowing that their anger would be demonstrated on a higher level.

  9. Mahathi Kosuri says:

    Marshall and Brown (2006) intended to study the interaction between traits and the environment, within the context of a stimulation study. I found this study to focus on a very important and popular topic in the field of psychology, that being the age-old debate of the interaction between traits and the environment. Disclaimer: though there were several design –related questions I had, I focused my attention to the content of what they were trying to study in order to understand ideas behind trait expression.
    The article presented the idea that the aggressiveness trait should be tested against three different situations in which people are provoked with situational stimuli. (Sidenote: these situational stimuli, in my opinion were significantly unprovocative.) The rationale of the study was a bit surprising to me, as it rested on the assumption that people’s traits are expressed most in moderately provocative situations. I found this against my intuition, as I would assume that people who are high on aggressiveness would be optimally provoked in a heightened situation. However, I realized after reading the discussion that the assumption was based on the notion that ambiguous guidelines of behavior minimize the role of interpretation, therefore leaving room for a person to be more provoked. This left me thinking whether expression of traits are not only situation specific, but also dependent upon the presence of authoritative/structure of a settings. These situations were all remotely related to a structured environment- in a public place, an academic task. Does this mean that peoples’ traits are automatically heightened when dealing with situations that are somewhat “watched.” It would be interesting to understand how traits are expressed within situations that are more natural (e.g. in social groups, in intimate family settings). Overall, I thought this article was informative, but did not provide astounding findings regarding the relationship between trait expression and environmental situations.

  10. Melissa Chavez says:

    Marshall, Brown (2006) stated that individuals who result high in TA would sense more anger and exhibit more aggression in response to a controlled stimulus than would those who are low in TA—indicating the contrast would be accurate when a controlled stimulus was correlated with a strong stimulus. With this in mind, when reading over study 2 and study 3; I returned back to chapter 3 in our textbook, where I recall two concepts that were explained: 1. There is no assumption that traits conclude across all possible situations. 2. Individuals manipulate or shape situations by their personality. Therefore I question whether the judgment in “anger” that the instructors had in mind when conducting the study may correlate with how the participants would view/ measure “anger”.

    That being said, another question I had is whether it is possible that overindentification can be projected into these measurements—concluding the research to be biased? For example in Study 3, the role of self-consciousness is being shown by participants when asked to predict how they would react in certain situations; without factoring in their current mood or self esteem (these are two factors that could change a behavior). This confused me due to the fact that I have encounter a time where my frustration or anger surprised me. And by surprising me I mean that I was not aware of how angry I could get until presented a situation where I never have been in before. Therefore what is there to say that if I were one of these participants predicting my reaction; it would be inaccurate because I lack a certain amount of self awareness and over identified myself to someone I might not be. In having said that, is anger being measured at its best in this study? I feel this way because in my experimental psychology class we have discussed the importance in how we structure our instructions and questionnaires to our participants.

  11. Gabriella Robinson says:

    After reading the Marshall and Brown (2006) study, I am left with a few questions regarding methodology and utility. My first question arose when reading the participants of study 1 would choose the decibel level of the burst of noise they want the person who they think just rated their essay to receive, during what they thought would be a competitive computer task. I feel as though that section could’ve use a bit more description as to the reasoning’s behind the methodology. What exactly did experimenters expect decibel choice to indicate, what construct is being tested? Their statistical analyses are the only indication of what they might have been hoping to measure, possibly “provocation”/”anger” in having just been rating by this person. I however think the methodology as written/not described is not strong enough to measure the aforementioned constructs, as I might perceive that the person who rated my essay poorly might be very strong at writing/superior skill than I, thus I would choose a higher decibel so as to level the playing field when subsequently competing against this possibly more skillful person. This is just one example of another emotion/or personality trait being demonstrated by decibel choice, insecurity/perceived weakness rather than anger in response to provocation/the situation. I think this weakens the validity of their generalization to the TASS model. Lastly, while reading I found myself wondering the utility of knowing whether people have emotional intelligence, in terms of being able to surmise how someone would react in various provoking situations. I feel as though the implications section could have been a bit stronger in answering this question for me. In reading that section I gather that laypeople’s thinking and judgment of others is more sophisticated and complex than one may think, and that this supports the idea that people think personality dispositions guide behavior. This left me wanting to know what instances/cases they would generalize this to, such as do the authors think this has relations/an effect on inclination to commit the fundamental attribution error. I suppose I wanted them to take their implication section one step forward with a concrete example of how the knowledge gleaned from this study affects individuals in day-to-day society.

  12. Lexi Pritchett says:

    In this article Marshall and Brown provide experiments that support the “traits as situational sensitivities” model (TASS) which argues that many traits function in a threshold-like manner. Based on the TASS model and the results in this study the argument stands that regardless of the level of a trait, there always has to be a provocation to enact a certain behavior (in this case aggression). From looking at the graphs, for the baseline positive feedback condition, the more aggressive individuals were still, on average, higher in aggression (measured by the volume of the punishment sound). The fellow participants in this study were fellow classmates so I’d assume that even the individuals higher in trait aggression may downplay their reactions due to social appropriateness and the possibility that they’d interact with these classmates again. I wonder if the researchers were able to remove social appropriateness or the familiarity of the fellow classmates, whether they would see more pronounced differences in this neutral/positive condition.

    In terms of study design I had a few critiques. Filling out mood questionnaires after feedback doesn’t seem masked- it seems like the participants would be able to connect the two pieces pretty easily, which might influence their ratings. I also have the pet-peeve dislike of the term “increased” used to describe data when there was not two measurements for each individual. Group comparisons do not imply that a behavior increased- that is accomplished by measuring something pre and post. In terms of the three part design, I don’t fully understand the added value of the second study regarding people’s understanding of trait x situation interactions. I guess the third study was useful from a therapy perspective- having insight into one’s tendencies is an important first step for changing these behaviors if they are maladaptive, but I don’t think this was addressed by the authors. I also didn’t fully understand the interpretation that “low TA people will appear to be more reactive than high TA people to strong provocation.” I don’t think any one would look at the graph and conclude this without comparing where the “baseline” is. Lastly I like more objective measurements, so I wonder if the researchers added physiological markers of aggression whether that would compliment these findings. In regards to positive aspects of the study design, the method of studying gradients (low, medium, high) should seemingly be applied to all studies when possible, rather than assuming a binary status or baselines that are different between studies (neutral vs. minorly provoking).

    In terms of applying these findings I wonder what you do with this information? In the wake of the recent school shooting I found myself trying to imagine how the shooter would respond in these different conditions and whether there is additive risk? After years of bullying does an individual really need an acute provocation to cause them to behave aggressively? Lastly, these researchers only looked at provocation but did not look at whether once provoked does the intensity of a trait make you less likely to benefit from soothing or other efforts at de-escalation?

  13. Safa Shehab says:

    It is interesting to contrast Marshall & Brown’s (2006) findings about laypeople’s predictions about their and others’ level of aggression at different intensities of situational provocation with Festinger’s social psychological theory of the Fundamental Attribution Error (or Attribution Theory). Whereas this theory states that people are more likely to attribute other people’s behavior to personal characteristics (including personality traits) while they attribute their own behaviors to situational factors, Marshall and Brown (2006) found that people are good at predicting that others’ propensities depend on both the situation and the individual’s trait, at least when it comes to aggressiveness. Also, based on the results of the third study, people seem to predict that they will themselves become angrier in instances of higher provocation, and seem to be aware of the extent to which their tendencies will be modulated by the situation. But this is not to say that they are aware that their trait characteristics also contributed to their reactions, and according to attribution theory, it seems that whatever their reaction would be, they will attribute it to the situation, not to their trait. It is interesting to see how attribution theory and the TASS model converge.
    On a different note, a misleading expression throughout this article was the use of “increasing or increases in” aggression or anger when referring to high levels in different participant groups. As there are no within-participant measures of aggression in any of the studies, this trait was not being “increased” from a baseline in a particular situation, but rather would have been more accurately described as higher or lower in one of the conditions. The terms aggression, anger, and aggressiveness were also used sometimes interchangeably, whereas they refer to different tendencies. Also, the way in which high and low TA groups were defined resulted in a high TA group of mean score of 37 (with highest score on the scale being 57). This means that people with high TA in this study actually had scores that fell around or a little higher than the middle of the scale and would otherwise not have been deemed high on aggression in the absolute sense. It is interesting to see how this model would apply to individuals with much higher aggression scores.

  14. Susie McHugh says:

    I thought that the assigned article by Marshall and Brown (2006) reflected several strengths and limitations. A major strength of the study was authors’ ability to predict and successfully discriminate (according to their statistics) such nuanced patterns of aggression, and behavior related to anger. I thought that the main finding, that it takes a “moderately strong situation” to best discriminate between levels of trait aggressiveness was not necessarily the most intuitive at prediction level (i.e., I don’t think I would have come up with that on my own), but their explanation of this phenomenon makes sense, and appears to be well-supported by their data. Following from this, given that the majority of their hypotheses yielded significant findings, I found it curious that the authors chose to include a measure of how lay people interpreted trait expression, given the relative strength of provocation per situation. I am not quite sure how, again, given their significant findings, this helps their point. It seems that in light of supported hypotheses, that this data is peripheral to their point at best. If the point they are trying to make is something along the lines of, “Our hypothesis is so accurate, that even lay people think it’s true without our influence,” then it pales in comparison to their repeated findings of significance. I am definitely being extra skeptical here, but this sort of perks my attention to the necessity of this finding. Do the authors themselves perhaps need extra convincing that their findings of significance are, in fact, “impressive”? Again, I’m being extra skeptical, but it almost makes me wonder whether the multiple significant findings are “too good to be true.” Finally, I question the use of “mild provocation” such as “someone in front of me on line at the store had more items than the maximum allowed.” Is this really a situation that people would have judged to be provocative at all? I think some preliminary data collection on what situations people of varying trait expression (i.e., aggression and anger) may have been worth surveying, before conducting the present study. Furthermore, if there was a way to simulate more natural situations of things like “someone cut me in line,” I think that observing how someone actually responds to this type of stimulus speaks much more loudly about their trait expression than does their ability (or lack thereof) to predict how they would respond to this situation on a questionnaire.

    I apologize for any typos – see submission time.

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