The Role of Social Goals in Bullies' and Victims' Social Information Processing in Response to Ambiguous and Overtly Hostile Provocation

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Abstract

Understanding what social goals are associated with bullying and victimization behaviours, even after allowing for biases in interpretation of and affective responses to social events, is critical for understanding the socio-behavioural profile of bullies and victims. In the present study, 181 nine- to ten-year-olds' affective responses, attribution of intent, and social goals were assessed in the context of a series of ambiguous and overtly hostile provocation vignettes. Results showed that even after allowing for other social information processing biases, social goals were meaningfully associated with bullying and victimization scores. Bullying was inversely associated with relationship-building goals, and positively associated with goals to be assertive over the provocateur when provocation was overtly hostile. Being victimized was associated with having submissive goals even when provocation was ambiguous and after accounting for attribution of hostile intent. Findings are discussed in light of theoretical and practical implications.

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