Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Bernard Weiner

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jason T. Siegel

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

William D. Crano

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Eusebio M. Alvaro

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2023 Xiaohui Yao


attributions, emotions, responsibility, self-blame, social support

Subject Categories



Weiner's (1985) attribution-emotion-action framework has been effective in predicting helping behavior. The model posits that perceiving someone as controllable/responsible for a need or a problem is associated with decreased helping intention and behavior through increased anger and reduced sympathy. Although controllability and responsibility were initially considered synonyms, Weiner (1995) later theorized that perceived controllability is a predominant antecedent of perceived responsibility, and responsibility is the primary predictor of emotions and behaviors. Moreover, there are other predictors of responsibility and mitigators of the controllability-responsibility relationship. Despite these clear theoretical distinctions, in practice, controllability and responsibility are often used interchangeably. This is likely because regardless of which one is used to predict help-giving, the data are typically supportive of the framework. Even though using controllability and responsibility interchangeably is common, recent studies indicate that there might be reasons to reconsider this practice. By using controllability as a substitute for responsibility, rather than a central predictor, the other predictors of responsibility are more likely to be neglected. This would minimize the utility of the model as other predictors of responsibility have been revealed. For example, Wickens and colleagues (2011) found that perceived intentionality is another predictor of responsibility. Yao and Siegel also found that intentionality predicted responsibility, and did so over and above the influence of controllability. A second limitation of using controllability and responsibility interchangeably is that it minimizes attention on mitigating circumstances where controllability is more or less predictive of responsibility. Yao and Siegel (2023) found that the relationship between controllability and responsibility was significantly weaker among parents who considered their own child becoming depressed, compared to a non-child close other. Complementing Yao and Siegel’s research, the current dissertation seeks to further understand these findings by providing an explanation as to why this moderation of interpersonal relationship occurred and under what circumstances would this moderation be observed. Study 1 examined the mechanism of the moderation by investigating the mediating role of self-blame in the controllability-responsibility relationship among parents. Study 2 further tested the moderating effect of a hypothesized underlying characteristic, the perceived responsibility of the helper for the help recipient's behavior in close relationships other than the parent-child relationship. Study 3 experimentally manipulated the perceived responsibility of the helper for the help recipient's behavior. Overall, this dissertation serves as a catalyst in comprehensively understanding mechanisms underlying one of the mitigators in Weiner’s (1995) advanced theorizing with the goal of gaining a fuller understanding and maximizing the explanatory power of Weiner's attribution model.



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