Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 167-198

First online:

Judging others in the shadow of suspicion

  • Steven FeinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Bronfman Science Center, Williams College
  • , James L. HiltonAffiliated withUniversity of Michigan

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Previous research has found that when perceivers have reason to be suspicious of the motives underlying an actor's behavior, they are likely to draw inferences about the actor's true disposition that reflect a relatively sophisticated style of attributional processing. The present research was designed to examine some of the negative consequences that suspicion can have on perceivers' judgments. In each of the three studies reported, some subjects were made suspicious about the motives of an actor on the basis of contextual information surrounding the actor's behavior, rather than the behavior itself. Results of these studies suggest that, particularly when perceivers believe that the actions or motives of the actor could affect them, suspicion may cause perceivers to see the actor in a more negative light, even if the perceivers are not convinced that the actor's behavior was indeed affected by ulterior motives.