Effects of Expectancies on Children's Social Interactions


The present study addresses the questions of whether expectancy effects exist among children, and if so, how they are mediated. Subjects were 40 gradematched dyads of 8- to 11-year-old boys. For half of the dyads, one boy (the “expecter”) was told only the name and grade of his partner. For the other dyads, the expecter was told that his partner was in a special class for his behavior problem (e.g., hyperactivity). The boys were then videotaped while playing together, and following the interactions were asked a variety of questions about their impressions of the interaction and their partner. Analyses revealed evidence for both the effects of expectancy on the boys' interactions and the means by which these expectancies were communicated. In addition, the results suggested that the effects may have been stronger in the younger dyads; in fact, there was evidence that the older expecters were actually compensating and behaving more positively toward their behavior problem-labeled partners. Last, correlations of the partners' behavior toward each other revealed greater reciprocity in the normal condition, with correlations being smaller or even negative in the behavior problem condition, suggesting that the negative expectancy creates a disruption of normal interactional processes.

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This article was available online August 27, 2004.

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