The Weighted Average Model WAM

Whereas the SRM is a statistical model designed for the decomposition of the components of interpersonal perception, the WAM is a general theoretical model of perception sometimes applied to informant assessment to predict its qualities (e.g., consensus and self-other agreement). The WAM predicts that the qualities of informants' ratings are a weighted function of nine components:

1. acquaintance (i.e., amount of information informants have about the target),

2. overlap (i.e., the number of target behaviors to which informants simultaneously have access),

3. consistency (i.e., the cross-si tua tional consistency of the target's behavior),

4. similar meaning systems (i.e., the extent to which informants consensually interpret a target's behavior),

5. physical appearance stereotypes (i.e., stereotypes related to age, sex, ethnicity, etc. that influence first impressions),

6. agreement about stereotypes (i.e., culturally driven stereotypes shared by informants),

7. validity of stereotypes (i.e., the "kernel" of truth in stereotypes),

8. unique impression (i.e., the informants' unique knowledge of the target), and

9. communication (i.e., degree to which informants communicate information about the target) (Kenny, 1991, 1994).

The nine components of the WAM can each be related to sources of variances in informant ratings (i.e., perceiver effects, target effects, and relationship effects). Perceiver effects are largely represented by unique impressions and physical appearance stereotypes, which are unique to perceivers across a set of targets (e.g., perceiver effects comprise the unique knowledge and valid stereotypes on age, sex, ethnicity, etc.). Target effects, in contrast, refer to effects shared between informants across a set of targets and result from overlap, similar meaning systems, agreement about stereotypes, consistency, and communication. Finally, relationship effects refer to the specific dyadic relationship of an informant with the target and are largely attributable to unique impressions, lack of similar meaning systems, and nonoverlap.

Similar to Brunswik's lens model of perception, the WAM assumes that informants differentially weigh the cues they perceive in such a manner that they assign scale values to each of the target's behaviors. The level of consensus, for instance, can then be predicted by a weighted function of all the nine factors. The WAM has a number of implications for consensus in informant assessment. One important prediction of the WAM is that general consensus does not always increase with greater acquaintance, but that accuracy does increase with greater acquaintance. This is because overlap and similar meaning systems drive consensus. If overlap is high (i.e., if informants observe the same target behavior), informants can achieve high consensus even if acquaintance (i.e., the number of observed acts) is low to moderate. Also, assuming no communication among informants, the similarity of informants' meaning systems places an upper limit on consensus. Thus, the most important sources of disagreement between informants seem to be a lack of overlap, dissimilar meaning systems, and the contribution of unique impressions (Kenny, 1991, 1994).

In general it is hypothesized, and supported empirically, that informant consensus is stronger than self-other agreement. At least three different explanations may account for this finding. First, self-ratings are inflated because of self-enhancement effects, which is why self-other agreement cannot be high. Second, informants may interact more with each other than with the targets. Third, informants may use different cues than the targets use, because other judgments are based more on observable reality and the targets' current behavior, whereas self-judgments are based more on implicit self-theories and inner states.

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