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Three stages in the development of the theoretical framework which has guided research on motives and defensive person perception are described, beginning with a trait approach and ending in a process oriented interactive model. Then, in order to accommodate findings showing that threatening stimuli are often processed in a realistic rather than a defensive way, a revised interactive model is proposed as a fourth stage of conceptualization. According to the revised model, perceiver's motives lead to defensive person perceptions only if (a) the interaction of perceiver's motives with the attributes of the stimulus person and the situation produces emotional arousal in the perceiver; and (b) the perceiver assumes that defensive processing of information related to the stimulus person has higher hedonic value than realistic processing. The following factors are proposed as determinants of the hedonic value and the relative intensity of realistic versus defensive processing: (a) the degree to which the stimulus is objectively linked with the perceiver's personal future outcomes; (b) the clarity of this hedonic link; (c) perceiver's ability to perceive negative hedonic links; (d) hope that realistic processing will help to obtain desired future outcomes; (e) potency of present negative feelings produced by the stimulus; and (f) personality factors affecting the intensity of emotional arousal or the capacity to tolerate and control emotional arousal. According to the revised model, defensive effects of motives on person perception are likely to occur primarily outside the laboratory, in the context of lasting and meaningful interpersonal relations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1987-01-01

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