Scenario Mutability And Need For Cognition: Appointing Blame

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I added the article the abstract needs to be about. Also, a copy of the instructions and an example paper.

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Scenario Mutability and Need for Cognition: Appointing Blame Former Student Abstract Methods One Students: Typically, authors add their abstract for the paper here on the second page. As you can see, the abstract for this paper is missing. Your job is to supply that abstract! Read over the following paper, which is an actual paper turned in by a former student taking Research Methods and Design II at FIU. This is similar to a paper you will write next semester. Review the studies in this paper, and spot the hypotheses, independent and dependent variables, participants, results, and implications, and write it up in one paragraph (no more than 250 words maximum). Make sure to include keywords as well (keywords are words or short phrases that researchers use when searching through online databases like PsycInfo – they need to be descriptive of the paper, so come up with three or four that seem to suit this paper). Good luck! Keywords: methods, paper, abstract, assignment, preview Counterfactual Thinking and Need For Cognition: Appointing Blame As free-willed beings, humans are often the victims of their own decisions. Imagine accidentally running over a stray cat because you decided to look away from the road at the exact moment the cat decided to cross the street. Following the accident, most people would be plagued with thoughts of how alternative circumstances or decisions could have prevented such an unfortunate situation. Every time an individual forms a ‘what if’ scenario in which he or she mentally alters the course of events occurred, they are participating in a process that is known as counterfactual thinking (Ruiselová, Prokopčáková, & Kresánek, 2007). This process allows individuals to consider the multiple factors at play in a situation (i.e mutability), and to decide what specific condition was responsible for the ultimate outcome of the event (Williams, Lees-Haley, & Price 1996). The primary focus of our study is to analyze the extent of culpability people place on a particular factor depending on the preventability of the outcome. The development of counterfactual thoughts relies on the variability of the situation as well as the knowledge that different actions could have resulted in alternate outcomes (Alquist, Ainsworth, Baumeister, Daly, & Stillman, 2015). According to Alquist et al., situations that are believed to be highly changeable generate more counterfactual thoughts than events that seem unavoidable. However, ruminating on every conceivable alternative of a situation would take an unlimited amount of time and resources. Instead of allotting so much time and energy on a cognitive task, people tend to narrow down the different scenarios that come to mind according to the degree of controllability of the factors involved (McCloy & Byrne, 2000). For example, the deliberate decisions individuals make that ultimately lead to a certain outcome is considered to be a controllable event, whereas uncontrollable events are unavoidable circumstances, such as traffic jams or natural disasters (McCloy & Byrne, 2000). When mentally forming a scenario different than the one occurred, individuals tend to change controllable rather than uncontrollable events (2000). Therefore, events that are within an individual’s jurisdiction generally receive the brunt of the blame for the resulting situation. In a similar light, a study performed by McCloy and Byrne (2000), discovered that inappropriate events are more often changed through the process of counterfactual thinking than appropriate ones, especially when the outcome of these events was negative. Inappropriate events include the decisions individuals make that are considered to be ‘socially wrong’, whereas appropriate events are ‘socially acceptable’ actions. Due to these results, we can conclude that what McCloy and Byrne consider to be “inappropriate controllable” events, will likely be regarded as highly culpable factors in the outcome of a situation. Another contributing factor to perceived culpability is the extent of knowledge of the actors involved in an event, as well as the intent of their actions (Gilbert, Tenney, Holland, & Spellman, 2015). For example, in the aforementioned scenario, had the driver known that looking away from the road would have caused her to run over the stray cat, the driver would have been more likely to be perceived guilty, even though the actions and the outcome of the situation remained the same. This rationalization is the product of a bottom-up method of thinking in which individuals are able to generate more counterfactual thoughts due to the actor’s knowledge of the outcome (Gilbert et al., 2015). The increased development of counterfactual thoughts will in turn attribute more responsibility to the actor, which will ultimately increase perceived blame (Gilbert et al., 2015). Study One In pursuance of counterfactual thinking and its relationship to perceived blame, we have devised a study that analyzed the extent of culpability people place on a particular factor depending on the preventability of the outcome. We provided participants with one of three scenarios, each of which depicted a variation of the same situation where alternate events lead to different conclusions. In the changeable condition, an actor engaged in a behavior that led to an undesirable outcome (death) that could have been avoided had he acted differently. In the unchangeable condition, the same actor engaged in a behavior that once again led to an undesirable outcome, but here the outcome could not have been avoided if he acted differently. In the neutral condition, the actor engaged in an alternative behavior, but the outcome was still undesirable. We predicted that participants would place more blame on the actor in the changeable condition where the actor could have avoided the undesirable outcome had he behaved differently than in both the unchangeable and neutral conditions, where the actor’s behavior could not be altered. This is because we expected changeable participants to generate more counterfactuals (more statements about how the actor could have behaved) in the changeable condition. Methods Participants Seventy-five students from Florida International University were randomly selected to participate in our study. Of these 75 participants, 38.7% (n = 29) were male and 61.3% (n = 46) were female. Ages ranged from a minimum of 17 to a maximum of 29 with an average of 21.72 years (SD = 2.56). Our sample population consisted of 69.3% Hispanic Americans (n = 52), 13.3% African Americans (n = 10), 9.3% Caucasians (n = 7), 2.7% Asians (n = 2), 1.3% Native American (n = 1), and 4% Others (n = 3). Materials and Procedure In accordance with the standardized guidelines for informed consent, prospective participants were notified of the potential risks and benefits of participating in the study before being introduced to the research material. If the student verbally agreed to participate, he or she was given one of three different documents, each of which consisted of four parts or sections. In part one of the study, the participant read a short scenario concerning a paraplegic couple, Tina and Eugene, who requested a taxi for a night out with friends. Each of the three documents depicted the same initial situation with alternate conditions (changeable, unchangeable, or neutral) that ultimately led to different outcomes of events. In the changeable condition, the taxi driver arrived to pick up the couple, only to promptly decline their fare upon seeing that they were both paraplegic. Without enough time to call for another taxi, Tina and Eugene decided to take Tina’s car, which was handicap equipped. In order to reach their destination, they had to cross a bridge that had been weakened the night before due to a severe storm. The damaged bridge collapsed mere minutes before the couple reached it. Unable to see the missing portion of the bridge in the night, Tina and Eugene drove off the road, into the river below, and drowned. The taxi driver, who had left 15 minutes earlier, managed to make it safely across, before the collapse. In the unchangeable condition, the situation remained mostly the same with the exception that the taxi driver arrived at the bridge after it had collapsed and plummeted into the water as well. He managed to make it out of the car and swim to safety, but Tina and Eugene drowned. In the neutral condition, the taxi arrived to pick up the couple but promptly refused their fare as soon as he realized that they were both paraplegic. In this condition, the taxi driver did eventually agree to take Tina and Eugene to their destination downtown, albeit after much argument. Due to the recently collapsed bridge, the taxi driver drove his passengers and himself off the road and into the river below. He barely managed to make it out of the car before drowning. Tina and Eugene’s outcome remained the same. After reading one of the scenarios described above, the participant continued on to the remainder of the study, which was composed of a series of open, partially open, and close-ended questions. In part two, the student participating in the study was asked to procure as many ‘If Only’ statements as possible, meaning that they had to list all the factors they could think of that could have possibly changed the outcome of the event. In part three, the participant was presented with a series of questions about their thoughts regarding the specific situation they read about. After reading each question, the participant was asked to record his or her response in a scale of one to nine. These questions included how avoidable they thought the accident was (1 = not at all avoidable, 9 = very avoidable), the causal role of the taxi driver in the couple’s death (1 = not at all causal, 9 = the most important cause), their thoughts on how much control the taxi driver had (1 = no control, 9 = complete control), the negligence of the taxi driver (1 = not at all negligent, 9 = completely negligent), how much money for damages the taxi driver was responsible for (1 = no money, 9 = as much as possible), the foreseeability of the couple’s death (1 = not at all foreseeable, 9 = completely foreseeable), and how much blame the taxi driver deserved for the event (1 = no blame at all, 9 = total blame). The last question of part three was a yes or no question that asked the participant whether the taxi driver agreed to drive the couple or not. This final question served as an attention check, which informed us if the participant was actually attentive to the study and allowed us to exclude potentially misrepresentative responses form our data. Part four asked for the participant’s demographic information, including gender, age, ethnicity, their first language, and whether they were a student at Florida International University. Concluding the study, the participant was debriefed on his or her contribution to the study as well as our insights on counterfactual thinking and our main hypothesis. Although we had several dependent variables, our primary focus involved the perceived blameworthiness of the taxi driver, the number of ‘If Only’ statements the participants could create, and the manipulation check regarding whether the driver agreed to take the couple. We hypothesized that participants would find the taxi driver more blameworthy for the couple’s death in the changeable condition, since he refused to drive Tina and Eugene while safely passing over the bridge himself. We also predicted that the participants in the changeable condition would generate more counterfactual (‘If Only’) statements than in the unchangeable or neutral conditions. Results Using survey condition (changeable vs. unchangeable vs. neutral) as our independent variable and whether participants recalled whether the taxi driver picked up the paraplegic couple as the dependent variable, we ran a manipulation check in which we saw a significant effect, X2(1) = 42.33, p < .001. Participants in the changeable and unchangeable conditions correctly said the taxi did not pick up the couple (98% and 100%, respectively) while few participants in the neutral condition said the driver picked up the couple (3%). Phi showed a large effect. This indicates that participants did pay attention to whether the taxi driver picked up the couple. For our main analysis, our first One-Way ANOVA test revealed significant differences among our independent variable, the scenario conditions (changeable, unchangeable, or neutral) and our dependent variable, perceived blameworthiness of the taxi driver, F(2, 72) = 3.91, p = .024. A subsequent Tukey post hoc test supported our hypothesis by demonstrating that participants were more likely to blame the taxi driver in the changeable condition (M = 4.24, SD = 2.09) than in both the unchangeable condition (M = 2.68, SD = 2.08) and the neutral condition (M = 4.12, SD = 2.40). However, there were no significant difference for perceived blame between the unchangeable or neutral conditions. These results indicate that in situations where the outcome is perceived as mutable (changeable), individuals are more likely to assign blame to the actor who could have acted differently. We were also interested in the number of ‘If Only’ statements generated for each condition. We ran a One-Way ANOVA test using the different conditions (changeable, unchangeable, or neutral) as our independent variable, and the number of counterfactuals produced as our dependent variable. The results revealed that the relationship between condition and number of ‘If Only’ statements produced was not significant, F(2, 72) = 2.30, p = .107. Our initial prediction that participants would develop more counterfactuals in the changeable condition was not supported since the number of counterfactuals generated in the changeable condition (M = 5.56, SD = 2.76), the unchangeable condition (M = 4.36, SD = 2.06), and the neutral condition (M = 5.76, SD = 2.63) did not differ. Since the p-value for the ANOVA test was not significant, there was no need to run post hoc tests. Discussion Study One We predicted that participants would place more blame on an actor whose behavior led to an undesirable outcome (death) when that actor could have acted differently primarily because these participants would generate more “If Only” counterfactual statements that would lead them to see the outcome could have been avoided. Conversely, we predicted that participants who read about an undesirable outcome that could not have been avoided would assign less blame to the actor and would think of fewer counterfactual “If Only” statements. Results partially supported these predictions, as we did find more blame for in the changeable condition compared to both the unchangeable and neutral conditions. However, the number of counterfactual statements that participants generated did not differ among our three conditions. It could be that participants were unfamiliar with the counterfactual task, which requires some deep thinking, though on a more unconscious level they could have seen the changeable condition as evidencing more elements of blame. This begs the question: what if participants were forced to think deeper? This is the focus of our second study. Study Two Although most of the general population engages in counterfactual thinking, the number of counterfactual thoughts created varies between people. This is because the development of numerous counterfactual thoughts is determined by the overall mutability of a situation as well as the distinct differences between individuals (Alquist, Ainsworth, Baumeister, Daly, & Stillman, 2015). For example, people who have an inclination for structuring situations in meaningful, integrated ways, or more aptly put, have a high need for cognition, are more prone to elaborate on presented information (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982). Therefore, these individuals might be more likely to participate in the generation of counterfactual thoughts than individuals who typically avoid effortful cognitive activity, or have a low need for cognition (Sargent, 2004). Despite the fact that several studies have researched scenario mutability and need for cognition, no prior findings have examined the influence these two variables have on the assignment of blame. The primary focus of our second study, therefore, is to analyze the extent of culpability people place on a particular factor depending on the mutability of the situation as well as the distinct Need for Cognition of each subject. Need for Cognition (NFC) is defined as an individual’s dispositional tendency to participate in demanding cognitive behaviors (Curseu, 2006). People with a high-NFC tend to enjoy engaging in cognitive endeavors and generally undergo a deep elaboration of information (Strobel, Fleischhauer, Enge, & Strobel, 2015), while individuals with a low-NFC use cognitive heuristics and often rely on others’ opinions (Furnham & Thorne, 2013). Petrocelli and Dowd (2009) proposed that individuals with a high-NFC employ complex attributional systems that allow them to think theoretically and recognize situational elements as causes of behavior. For example, in the previously mentioned scenario, people with a high-NFC are likely to consider the external or environmental aspects—such as distracting traffic—as blameworthy factors in the unfortunate, accidental death of the stray cat. According to Curseu (2006), individuals with a high-NFC also tend to generate more alternative solutions to problems compared to low-NFC individuals who tend to avoid strenuous cognitive activities (Petrocelli & Dowd, 2009). Taking these components into account, it is reasonable to expect high-NFC subjects to produce more counterfactual thoughts than low-NFC subjects. Considering the distinct attributes of individuals with a high and low NFC, it is highly probable that attitudes towards judgments of blame are significantly different between the two conditions (Sargent, 2004). According to Sargent (2004), people with high-NFC usually prefer to tackle social problems involving crime rather than actually punishing the criminal responsible. This might be due to the complex attributional systems used by high-NFC individuals, which attributes behavior to “abstract, contemporary, external causes” and ultimately withdraws responsibility from the perpetrator and places it on societal influences instead (Sargent, 2004). Therefore, it is not surprising that Sargent found a negative correlation between high-NFC and punitive responses to crimes, since high-NFC individuals tend to view the criminal as a victim of circumstantial events. However, Sargent also notes that understanding the consequences of a criminal act through exposure to particular criminal cases can cause high-NFC individuals to think more about the consequences of a committed crime, which in turn might result in a positive correlation between high-NFC and punitive reactions to criminal acts. Thus, whether a high-NFC individual finds a perpetrator blameworthy or not depends on the specific details of the crime, and the resulting consequences of the events occurred. On a related note, an experiment conducted by Wevodau, Cramer, Clark, and Kehn (2014) investigated the correlational interaction between NFC and perceived blame. According to Wevodau et al. (2014), there is a substantial positive association between NFC and the allocation of blame. The researchers found that that highly motivated individuals who enjoy effortful cognitive processing tend to assign more culpability than cognitively reserved individuals (Wevodau et. al, 2014). In pursuance of scenario changeability and NFC, study two analyzed the extent of culpability placed on a particular factor depending on the mutability of the situation as well as the distinct need fo ...
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Msharon
School: UCLA

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Scenario Mutability and Need for Cognition: Appointing Blame
Former Student

Abstract
The primary focus of this study is to analyze the extent of culpability people place on a
particular factor depending on the preventability of the outcome. The research conducted two
studies, while study one comprises of seventy-five students from Florida International University
and study two includes one hundred and sixty University students. Study one has one independent
variable, scenario condition, whereas study two has two independent variables which include;
Need for Cognition (NFC) and scenario condition. From the data analysis, study one discovered
that the taxi driver in a changeable condition receives more blame compared to the actor in the
unchangeable and the neutral conditions. Besides, counterfactual statements provided for the
changeable, unchangeable and neutral situation did not differ. In study two, the findings indicate
that the NFC has not had an impact on the counterfactual statements. The scenario condition, on
the other hand, reported that the participants in the changeable condition perceived the taxi driver
as blameworthy while compared to the participants in the unchangeable condition. The two studies
indicate that while the scenario condition can play a part in the generation of counterfactuals, NFC
has no impact on the generation of “if only” statements.
Keywords: Changeable condition, Unchangeable condition, Neutral Condition, High NFC, Low
NFC, Counterfactual Statements.

Counterfactual Thinking and Need For Cognition: Appointing Blame
As free-willed beings, humans are often the victims of their own decisions. Imagine accidentally
running over a stray cat because you decided to look away from the road at the exact moment the
cat decided to cross the street. Following the accident, most people would be plagued with
thoughts of how alternative circumstances or decisions could have prevented such an unfortunate
situation. Every time an individual forms a ‘what if’ scenario in which he or she mentally alters
the course of events occurred, they are participating in a process that is known as counterfactual
thinking (Ruiselová, Prokopčáková, & Kresánek, 2007). This process allows individuals to
consider the multiple factors at play in a situation (i.e mutability), and to decide what specific
condition was responsible for the ultimate outcome of the event (Williams, Lees-Haley, & Price
1996). The primary focus of our study is to analyze the extent of culpability people place on a
particular factor depending on the preventability of the outcome.
The development of counterfactual thoughts relies on the variability of the situation as well as
the knowledge that different actions could have resulted in alternate outcomes (Alquist,
Ainsworth, Baumeister, Daly, & Stillman, 2015). According to Alquist et al., situations that are
believed to be highly changeable generate more counterfactual thoughts than events that seem
unavoidable. However, ruminating on every conceivable alternative of a situation would take an
unlimited amount of time and resources. Instead of allotting so much time and energy on a
cognitive task, people tend to narrow down the different scenarios that come to mind according
to the degree of controllability of the factors involved (McCloy & Byrne, 2000). For example,
the deliberate decisions individuals make that ultimately lead to a certain outcome is considered
to be a controllable event, whereas uncontrollable events are unavoidable circumstances, such as
traffic jams or natural disasters (McCloy & Byrne, 2000). When mentally forming a scenario
different than the one occurred, individuals tend to change controllable rather than uncontrollable
events (2000). Therefore, events that are within an individual’s jurisdiction generally receive the
brunt of the blame for the resulting situation.
In a similar light, a study performed by McCloy and Byrne (2000), discovered that inappropriate
events are more often changed through the process of counterfactual thinking than appropriate
ones, especially when the outcome of these events was negative. Inappropriate events include the
decisions individuals make that are considered to be ‘socially wrong’, whereas appropriate
events are ‘socially acceptable’ actions. Due to these results, we can conclude that what McCloy
and Byrne consider to be “inappropriate controllable” events, will likely be regarded as highly
culpable factors in the outcome of a situation.
Another contributing factor to perceived culpability is the extent of knowledge of the actors
involved in an event, as well as the intent of their actions (Gilbert, Tenney, Holland, & Spellman,
2015). For example, in the aforementioned scenario, had the driver known that looking away
from the road would have caused her to run over the stray cat, the driver would have been more
likely to be perceived guilty, even though the actions and the outcome of the situation remained
the same. This rationalization is the product of a bottom-up method of thinking in which
individuals are able to generate more counterfactual thoughts due to the actor’s knowledge of the
outcome (Gilbert et al., 2015). The increased development of counterfactual thoughts will in turn

attribute more responsibility to the actor, which will ultimately increase perceived blame (Gilbert
et al., 2015).
Study One
In pursuance of counterfactual thinking and its relationship to perceived blame, we have devised
a study that analyzed the extent of culpability people place on a particular factor depending on
the preventability of the outcome. We provided participants with one of three scenarios, each of
which depicted a variation of the same situation where alternate events lead to different
conclusions. In the changeable condition, an actor engaged in a behavior that led to an
undesirable outcome (death) that could have been avoided had he acted differently. In the
unchangeable condition, the same actor engaged in a behavior that once again led to an
undesirable outcome, but here the outcome could not have been avoided if he acted differently.
In the neutral condition, the actor engaged in an alternative behavior, but the outcome was still
undesirable. We predicted that participants would place more blame on the actor in the
changeable condition where the actor could have avoided the undesirable outcome had he
behaved differently than in both the unchangeable and neutral conditions, where the actor’s
behavior could not be altered. This is because we expected changeable participants to generate
more counterfactuals (more statements about how the actor could have behaved) in the
changeable condition.
Methods
Participants
Seventy-five students from Florida International University were randomly selected to
participate in our study. Of these 75 participants, 38.7% (n = 29) were male and 61.3% (n = 46)
were female. Ages ranged from a minimum of 17 to a maximum of 29 with an average of 21.72
years (SD = 2.56). Our sample population consisted of 69.3% Hispanic Americans (n = 52),
13.3% African Americans (n = 10), 9.3% Caucasians (n = 7), 2.7% Asians (n = 2), 1.3% Native
American (n = 1), and 4% Others (n = 3).
Materials and Procedure
In accordance with the standardized guidelines for informed consent, prospective
participants were notified of the potential risks and benefits of participating in the study before
being introduced to the research material. If the student verbally agreed to participate, he or she
was given one of three different documents, each of which consisted of four parts or sections. In
part one of the study, the participant read a short scenario concerning a paraplegic couple, Tina
and Eugene, who requested a taxi for a night out with friends. Each of the three documents
depicted the same initial situation with alternate conditions (changeable, unchangeable, or
neutral) that ultimately led to different outcomes of events.
In the changeable condition, the taxi driver arrived to pick up the couple, only to
promptly decline their fare upon seeing that they were both paraplegic. Without enough time to
call for another taxi, Tina and Eugene decided to take Tina’s car, which was handicap equipped.
In order to reach their destination, they had to cross a bridge that had been weakened the night

before due to a severe storm. The damaged bridge collapsed mere minutes before the couple
reached it. Unable to see the missing portion of the bridge in the night, Tina and Eugene drove
off the road, into the river below, and drowned. The taxi driver, who had left 15 minutes earlier,
managed to make it safely across, before the collapse. In the unchangeable condition, the
situation remained mostly the same with the exception that the taxi driver arrived at the bridge
after it had collapsed and plummeted into the water as well. He managed to make it out of the car
and swim to safety, but Tina and Eugene drowned. In the neutral condition, the taxi arrived to
pick up the couple but promptly refused their fare as so...

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