The Public and Private Use of Consensus-Raising Excuses


  • We thank Roy Baumester Frank Dane, Mark Leary, and Stephen West for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper, and Camille Wortman for providing a copy of the Social-perceptiveness Scale Portions of the data were presented at the 56th Annual Meetings of the Eastern Psychological Association, and cited in Whitehead and Smith (1986)

Requests for reprints should be sent to Stephanie Smith, Department of Psychology, Indiana University Northwest, Gary. IN 46408


ABSTRACT Two experiments tested the proposition that people use consensus-raising excuses more in private than in public when the audience has information that could refute subjects' claims about others In Experiment 1, subjects received success or failure feedback and made public or private attributions to ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck In Experiment 2, subjects received positive or negative feedback and evaluated themselves and others on the trait Task difficulty attributions and evaluations of others are consensus-raising measures Consistent with our hypothesis, subjects receiving negative feedback in Experiment 1 claimed that the task was more difficult, and in Experiment 2 evaluated the other more negatively in private than in public.