Agreeableness and conflict. William Graziano and his colleagues have conducted a program of research that also illustrates well the strengths and advantages of a multimethod approach in social psychology. We chose this particular study (Graziano, Jensen-Campbell, & Hair, 1996) to describe in some detail because it is a good example of all three forms of multimethod research: multi-method assessment of the dependent variables, between-method replication of the independent variable, and within-method replication of the independent variable. The article describes the results of two studies aimed at testing the hypothesis that individual differences in Agreeableness are related to patterns of conflict and preferences for conflict resolution strategies.
In Study 1, 263 undergraduates completed a measure of Agreeableness based on Goldberg's (1992) self-rating markers of the Five-Factor Model of personality. Participants then read a series of 10 conflict vignettes describing possible conflict situations in various sorts of relationships (family, friends, romantic partners, etc.), and they rated how effective each of 11 possible strategies was for resolving the conflict in that situation. The 11
strategies were then collapsed into the three broad categories of power assertion (e.g., physical action, threats, criticism); disengagement (e.g., submission, wait and see); and negotiation (e.g., compromise, third-party mediation). Analyses revealed that although both high and low Agreeableness individuals felt that negotiation and disengagement were superior forms of conflict resolution than was power assertion, participants low in Agreeableness viewed power assertion as a more effective choice than did high Agreeable participants (Graziano et al., 1996).
Study 2 of the Graziano et al. (1996) article was designed to address some of the limitations of the first study, namely that the vignette methodology, while providing greater control and avoiding problems with deception, could still be considered artificial and constraining of participants' natural reactions to conflict situations. To address these limitations, Graziano and his colleagues conducted their second study, which involved videotaping 62 same-sex dyads of varying combinations of Agreeableness (high/high; low/low; high/low) while they engaged in two mild conflict situations. One situation required the members of the dyad to arrive at a unanimous decision for a trial in which they had received material differing with respect to whether they should rule in favor of the plaintiff. The other situation required them to role-play individuals competing for a scarce resource; the role-play was set up so that a mutually acceptable solution was possible but could be arrived at only through discussion. Dependent measures for this study included participants' self-reports of the degree of conflict perceived during the interaction, ratings of their partner, and molar and molecular nonverbal variables coded by objective raters from the videotapes.
Analyses revealed that high-Agreeable participants perceived less conflict in the interaction, liked their partners better, and rated them more positively compared to low-Agreeable participants (Graziano et al., 1996). As predicted, low-Agreeable participants were more likely to elicit more conflict from their partners than high-Agreeable individuals. Agreeableness was also related to the nonverbal cues given off by participants; for example, low-Agreeable participants leaned away from their partners more often.
Interestingly, low-Agreeable individuals smiled more often when they were paired with another low-Agreeable person than when they were paired with a high-Agreeable person.
In sum, the Graziano et al. (1996) article encompasses an impressive array of introducing conflict and measuring reactions to this conflict. Between-method replication was achieved by varying three ways of introducing conflict: vignettes, a videotaped interaction involving an actual conflict situation, and role-playing. Within-method replication was achieved by creating different vignettes in Study 1 (i.e., 10 conflict vignettes involving different sorts of relationships). Multimethod assessment was achieved by including self-report, observer ratings, and nonverbal behaviors. That similar themes emerged from all these ways of introducing conflict and measuring reactions adds greatly to the validity of the Agreeableness construct and helps lead to conclusions that are relatively impervious to artifac-tual alternative explanations. But the Graziano et al. (1996) study also exemplifies some of the interpretive perils involved in multimethod research. For example, observers' ratings of participants' Agreeableness were only modestly correlated with participants' self-reported Agreeableness, r(123) = .21, p < .05. Although this correlation was statistically significant, it is on the low side of what would be considered desirable for a convergent validity coefficient. Moreover, computing the correlations separately by sex revealed further complications: Observers agreed significantly with self-reports for men but not for women. The question then becomes what to make of the lack of strong agreement: Which measurement source is "right"? It is this very ambiguity in knowing how to interpret results that are inconsistent across replications or variables that perhaps undermines researchers' motivations for including multiple measures or operationalizations. On the other hand, identifying limiting conditions, such apparent "failures" to replicate across dependent variables, may actually help advance theory.
Aggression and the Southern "culture of honor."
One of the most provocative theories of aggression introduced in recent years has been Richard Nis-
bett's program of research asserting that a "culture of honor" possessed by Southerners can account for the higher homicide rates in Southern cities (Nis-bett, 1993; Nisbett & Cohen, 1996). The argument essentially is that because the South was originally settled by descendants from herding societies— societies characterized by a culture of honor that requires them to retaliate violently to perceived threats to property or reputation—Southern cities should be characterized by higher rates of homicide that are argument or conflict related. Obviously, this is a hypothesis that would be difficult to test definitively via a traditional 2x2 experimental design. Nisbett and his colleagues instead have built a case for their argument around a variety of between- and within-method replications using experimental and nonexperimental approaches and multimethod assessment using a variety of dependent measures.
The following list illustrates the remarkable variety of methodological approaches adopted by Nisbett and Cohen's research program:
1. Analysis of historical and ethnographic studies of herding societies,
2. Archival analysis of census and crime reports,
3. Representative random sample surveys,
4. Laboratory experiments assessing reactions of Southerners to insults,
5. Field experiments assessing potential employers' and newspaper writers' reactions to honor-related crimes, and
6. Archival analysis of Southern laws, voting records, and public policies regarding honor-related practices and crimes (e.g., capital punishment and gun control policies).
Moreover, the studies conducted within each of these methodological approaches are in turn characterized by an admirable attention to diversity of dependent variables. Take, for example, the three studies reported in Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle, and Schwarz (1996). In Study 1, Southern and Northern male undergraduates at the University of Michigan were instructed to walk down a narrow hallway, necessitating the closing of a file drawer by a confederate. The participant had to return back down the hallway almost immediately, once again apparently inconveniencing the confederate, who slammed the file drawer shut, bumped the participant with his shoulder, and called him an "asshole" under his breath. There were three categories of dependent measures: objective judges' ratings of how angry and amused the participant appeared after the bump; projective hostility measures (a word completion task, ratings of negative emotions shown in photographs, and completion of a neutral scenario); and an insult prime scenario, where participants were asked to finish a story involving one man making a pass at the first character's fiancée.
In Study 2, the same bumping/insult manipulation was used, but different dependent variables were assessed. Cortisol levels, which indicate stress, and testosterone levels, which are associated with aggression and dominance behavior, were measured before and after the confederate's insult. Participants were also asked to indicate how much electric shock they would be willing to experience in a later phase of the experiment, as a means of assessing their motivation to demonstrate toughness. Participants then completed a number of scenarios that were ambiguous as to whether an insult had occurred. In addition, objective judges rated the emotional expressions of the participant immediately following the bumping incident as was done in Study 1.
For Study 3, following the bump and insult, a different confederate walked down the narrow hall toward the participant. As there was not room for them to pass each other side by side, one person had to give way to the other. The confederate did not slow his pace, and the dependent measure was the distance at which the participant gave way (if at all). The participant was then led to a room containing a third confederate, who shook hands with the participant as they were introduced. This confederate recorded a rating of how firm the handshake was and the degree to which the participant's gaze was domineering. Participants also responded to a questionnaire asking them to rate how they think they would come across to the third confederate (who in one condition observed the insult), as a way of assessing whether insulted participants believed their reputations suffered as a result.
In sum, the three studies reported in Cohen et al. (1996) encompass a remarkable range of dependent measures, with an emphasis on relatively nonreactive behavioral measures. Indeed, the almost total absence of traditional self-report variables is striking. Analyses revealed, for the most part, consistent results across dependent measures. Compared to Northerners, Southerners who were insulted (a) became more upset, as measured by their emotional reactions and Cortisol levels; (b) were more likely to be cognitively primed to give aggressive responses, as measured by their reactions to the insult scenario; and (c) showed a greater inclination to behave aggressively or dominantly, as seen by their gains in testosterone levels, inclination not to give way to the other confederate, and handshaking/gaze behavior.
On some of the dependent variables, there were no regional differences obtained, but in one sense these nonsignificant results help in important ways to refine further the culture of honor perspective. For example, there were no differences between Southerners and Northerners in their reaction to either the neutral or ambiguous threat scenarios or on the shock acceptance measure. Cohen and his colleagues interpreted this pattern as demonstrating reassuring discriminant validity: "[T]he effect of the affront was limited to situations that concerned issues of honor, were emotionally involving, and had actual consequences for the participant's masculine status and reputation" (1996, p. 957). Clearly, Nisbett and Cohen's (1996) series of studies illustrate the full breadth and benefits of a multi-method approach to a research question.
Was this article helpful?