INTRODUCTION In the late 1940’s, Fritz Heider, a German psychologist, developed the theory of cognitive balance. He was mainly concerned with the processes within individuals that caused them to want their perceptions to fit together harmoniously. When evaluating balance in a dyad, two factors are relevant: sentiment and unit formation. Sentiment refers to liking or disliking, and unit formation refers to entities that are perceived as belonging together in a specially close way… [or simply] whether or not the two people have a relationship (Hess, 2000). This is how the balance theory works: When (A) likes (B) and (B) likes (A) and they both like (C), there is balance. For example, I like Fred and Fred likes the Labour Party, as do I (no problem). But if I like Fred and Fred hates the Labour Party, the dyad is unbalanced and this causes strain on our relationship. To create balance and remove the strain caused by our opposing views I can do one of three things: I can become more negative toward Fred, I can become more negative about the Labour Party, or I can try to persuade Fred to like the Labour Party. Chapdelaine, Kenny, and LaFontana (1994) used the balance theory in predicting whether two unacquainted persons would like each other. They believed that when a person takes on the role as “matchmaker” they assume that others’ view of the “target” will be similar to their own. According to Heider’s principles of balance, persons will predict that those they like or dislike will like each other, and if one target is liked and the other is dislike, then persons will predict that the targets will dislike each other. For example, I like Sally and I like Bob. I would then assume that Sally and Bob would like each other based on the similarities I see in our relationships. On the other hand, however, if I like Sally, and I don’t like Bob, I would assume that Sally would not like Bob either. Chapdelaine, Kenny, and LaFontana’s (1994) experiment resulted in a strong positive correlation between subjects’ liking predictions and their own liking for a given target. Davis and Rusbult (2001) used the balance theory as a pattern for attitude alignment in close relationships. They hypothesized that individuals typically eliminate the discomfort associated with attitudinal discrepancy through the least psychologically effortful mechanism. They found that more people tended to change their own attitudes or attempted to influence the other person’s attitude to create harmony on an issue. Their hypothesis supported the finding that terminating the A-B relationship was the most unlikely solution. In most cases, people value the relationship more than the issue they disagree on. An example might be a person’s eating habits; (A) likes (B) and (B) likes cheese, but (A) does not like cheese. (A) probably will not change his/her attitude toward (B) based on what foods (B) likes.The research I found using Heider’s balance theory concentrated heavily on the issue of actually balancing the dyad and discovering new ways and coping mechanisms to adhere to removing the strain placed on relationships because of the unbalanced state. However, none of the articles I have reviewed discussed humans’ tendency to be stubborn. People know when things are unbalanced or not running smoothly in their relationships, yet commonly they tend to point their finger in every which way, trying to place blame on who and what caused the problem. Relate to this? You should. It is called friendship, marriage, parenthood, sisterhood, brotherhood; you name it. Strain is found in almost every form of a relationship, and since those relationships mean so much to us, we find ourselves compromising on issues in order to create harmony. The answer that I did not find in past research is: who does the changing? I was interested in using Heider’s balance theory to discover whether a person would designate their friend as the one that must change or place the responsibility upon themselves in order to eliminate the strain on the relationship. I hypothesized that the participants would more often place the responsibility on their friends. I also wanted to concentrate on the effect that gender had on designating which person would do the changing. I expected to find that females would take the initiative to change in relationships involving a male. In female-female relationships, I expected to discover that the female would place the responsibility upon their friend to change. I expected to find that males would tend to expect their partner to do the changing in both male-female and male-male relationships.
Participants for this study were 77 students enrolled in Psychology 101 classes at Missouri Western State College located in St. Joseph, Missouri. Participants formed 28 female-female relationships, 26 female-male relationships, 12 male-female relationships, and 11 male-male relationships.
A paper and pencil survey (refer to Appendix) was distributed to collect the data for this experiment.
A paper and pencil survey was distributed to an introductory psychology class during their normally scheduled lecture period. The participants were assigned either a male friend or a female friend to think of while completing the survey. This was used to determine the effect gender had on designating change. The survey consisted of four scenarios that placed the participant and their friend in different unbalanced situations that would cause conflict. The scenarios consisted of conflicting drinking habits, moods, friends, and religious views. After each situation the participant was asked what they would do to fix the problem in order to balance the relationship. The participant had three options (a-c), in which one of the options suggested that their friend adjust to the issue or adapt to the change, and two options that allowed the participant to take the active role in balancing the situation. This was used to determine whom the participant designated most often to do the changing.
RESULTS A 2x2 between-subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated for each scenario. Scenario #1 compared whether the participants designated themselves or their friend to change in alcohol related situations. The main effect for whether or not the gender of the friend was male or female was not significant (F(1,73) = 2.32, p>.05). The main effect for whether or not the gender of the participant was male or female was significant (F(1,73) = 4.58, p<.05). Finally, the interaction was not significant (F(1,73) = .73, p>.05). Thus, it appears that the gender of the participant had a significant effect on whether the participants designated themselves or their friend to change in alcohol related situations.Scenario #2 compared whether the participant designated themselves or their friend to change when moods conflicted. The main effect for whether or not the gender of the friend was male or female was not significant (F(1,73) = .20, p>.05). The main effect for whether or not the gender of the participant was male or female was also not significant (F(1,73) = .172, p>.05). The interaction was not significant (F(1,73) = .028, p>.05). Therefore, this suggests that neither the gender of the participant, nor the gender of the friend had a significant effect on whether the participants designated themselves or their friend to change when their moods conflicted.Scenario #3 compared whether the participant designated themselves or their friend to change when a third friend was introduced to the relationship. The main effect for whether or not the gender of the friend was male or female was not significant (F(1,73) = .141, p>.05). The main effect for whether or not the gender of the participant was male or female was not significant (F(1,73) = .414, p>.05). Te interaction was also not significant (F(1,73) = .243, p>.05). Thus, it appears that neither the gender of the participant, nor the gender of the friend had a significant effect on whether the participant designated themselves or their friend when a new friend was introduced to the relationship. Scenario #4 compared whether the participant designated themselves or their friend to change when they share conflicting religious views. The main effect for whether or not the gender of the friend was male or female was not significant (F(1,73) = 2.01, p>.05). The main effect for whether or not the gender of the participant was male or female was not significant (F(1,73) = .270, p>.05). Finally, the interaction was not significant (F(1,73) = .270, p>.05). This suggests that that neither the gender of the participant, nor the gender of the friend had a significant effect on whether the participant designated themselves or their friend when they held conflicting religious views.
DISCUSSION A review of the literature suggested that people tended to eliminate strain from their relationship by either accepting their partners view on an issue or by trying to convince their partner to accept their own view on the issue (Chapdelaine & LaFontana, 1994). In my original hypothesis I expected that people would require their friend to change rather than change their own views when trying to balance the relationship. I discovered that in this experiment the percentage of participants choosing to change their friend tended to be higher in male participants than in female participants. I also discovered that my hypothesis regarding gender resulted in the exact opposite. I expected to find that females would designate themselves to change in female- male relationships and that females would designate their friend to change in female- female relationships. When in fact, in female- male relationships, the female tended to designated their male friend to change. In female- female relationships, the female participants tended to designate themselves. I also hypothesized that males would designate their friend to change in both male-male and male- female relationships. The results of this study suggested that in male- male relationships the male participants tended to designate themselves to change while in male- female relationships, the male participants tended to designate the female friend to change. Limitations of this study would be determining whether certain artifacts such as expectancy bias interfered with the data collection. Participants may have wanted to appear to be “the better person” by always choosing the answer that would designate them as the person to eliminate conflict. Students may respond differently to scenarios when they think that someone might judge their answers.To control for this limitation, future research should be conducted as a lab study or field study so that participants could be observed in the actual situation rather than simply distributing a survey. Recording a person’s behavior, when exposed to conflicting situations, may provide more significant data. Actual attitudes and behaviors might be harder for the participant to mask than their answers on a survey.
REFERENCES Chapdelaine, A., Kenny, D. A., & LaFontana, K. M. (1994). Matchmaker, matchmaker, can you, make me a match? Predicting liking between two unacquainted persons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 83-91.
Davis, J. L., & Rusbult, C. E. (2001). Attitude alignment in close relationships. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 81, 65-84.
Hess, J. A. (2000). Maintaining nonvoluntary relationships with disliked partners: An investigation into the use of distancing behaviors. Human Communication Research, 26, 458-488.
APPENDIX Have a MALE friend in mind when completing this survey and use him in all of the following scenarios.
Your gender ___________________
Scenario #1 You like to drink when you party; your friend does not drink at all.Would you…?a. ditch your friend often to hang out with others who do drinkb. abstain from drinking alcohol when your friend is around c. try to convince your friend to loosen up and have a drink Scenario #2 Your friend is in a bad mood; you are having a great day. Would you…?a. try to cheer your friend upb. find yourself in a bad mood too by the end of the dayc. avoid your friend until they are in a better mood
Scenario #3Your friend has gained a new friend that you don’t know whether or not you can stand yet.Would you…?a. convince your friend that the 2 of you don’t need a third wheelb. try to make friends with the new personc. decide not to hang out with your friend anymore.
Scenario #4Pretend that in #3 you decide to be friends with this new person (even if that wasn’t your answer… just pretend). This new person is of a different religion than you. Would you…?a. decide not to be friends with the personb. try to convince the person that their religion is wrongc. ask questions about their religion in order to find out more about your new friend.