Open Access Dissertation
Date of Award
Dr. Brian Lakey
Earliest models of perceived social support emphasized aspects of the individual's social environment, proposing that perceived support is a direct function of the help one actually received. Other researchers speculated that perceived social support is a reflection of the personality of the perceiver. However, a recent series of generalizability studies suggest that the single most important determinant of support judgments is the Perceiver by Environment interaction. Thus, it appears that social support judgments are largely driven by the unique matching between the perceiver and the support provider. One potential mechanism of this matching process is that different people base their judgments of other's supportiveness on different characteristics of targets. In order to investigate this possibility, a series of three studies were conducted. In the first, subjects completed measures of perceived support and personality, as well as rated the extent to which different patterns of personality profiles imply supportiveness. The results of Study 1 indicated that 1) subjects differed in the traits that they associated with support, and 2) the traits subjects associated with support were the same traits they see in themselves. This suggests a similarity between subjects' mental representation of self and representations of supportive others. Because subjects made ratings of hypothetical personality profiles, Study 1 did not address whether this similarity effect applies to support judgments of actual persons. In Study 2, subjects made personality and support ratings of both themselves and a target in their own social networks. The results of Study 2 indicated that the more similar subjects and targets were in personality, the more likely subjects were to see the target as supportive. One limitation of Study 2 was that subjects each rated a different target. In Study 3 subjects all rated the support and personality of the same four characters in a popular television program. The results of Study 3 indicated that the traits subjects associated with support of the four characters were the same traits they saw in themselves. Taken together the three studies provide good evidence that when asking people what they think a good support provider is like, they will say a good support provider is someone who is like themselves.
Lutz, Catherine J., "An idiographic approach to the person x environment interaction in support judgments /" (1997). Wayne State University Dissertations. 1236.