Case Study: Messages for Steve
Steve, raised in an individualistic culture, predominantly operates from an independent view of the self. He is a 24 year old college student taking 12 units this semester and works part-time delivering pizzas on weekday evenings and weekends. One Sunday evening, Steve arrived home after an exhausting eight hours at work. He checked his voice mail and found that he had four messages. Being very tired and not feeling like talking to anyone, Steve decided to listen to the messages but not return any calls until the morning unless they were important.
The first message was from his mom who was just calling to “check in” on Steve. Steve didn’t particularly want to talk to his mother, but he promised himself that he would call her tomorrow just to make sure he appeased her. The second message was from his girlfriend, Stella, who was apologizing for her part in the argument they had the night before. Steve was already missing Stella, and because he was in love, he planned to call her back as soon as he listened to the rest of the messages. The third message was from Eugene, a guy in Steve’s math class that he only knew casually. Eugene was apparently having difficulty with an assignment that was due in the morning and was hoping to discuss it that night. Steve was really frustrated with his math class. It was uninspiring and boring. Steve wished he enjoyed math like he used to. He was doing so well in math throughout grade school that when Steve got to middle school, his dad started paying him 20 dollars for each A he earned in all his math classes. Unfortunately for Steve, his father retired when he started high school, so he couldn’t afford to pay him for the As any longer. Except for missing the money, Steve didn’t care anyway because math had really lost its pizazz by high school, and he still wasn’t into math. In fact, Steve hadn’t completed his math homework due tomorrow. The last message was from Steve’s ex-girlfriend. As soon as he heard her velvety voice and before realizing who she was, his stomach flipped and flopped, and his heart started racing. “Huh? What the heck is going on with me?” thought Steve. “Who is this?!” As soon as he realized it was Samantha, he wiped his sweaty brow and thought, “Oh, wow, she still excites me, I guess! Oh, man!” Steve decided that calling her back was asking for trouble.
So, he sat down and turned on the television. After flipping through a few channels, Steve found a show called “America’s Next Top Male Model,” which was featuring shirtless male models walking across a stage. He immediately noticed that all the men on the stage were particularly fit. This made Steve reflect on his own fitness, which had suffered because of his busy school and work schedule (not to mention all-you-caneat pizza). A momentary dip in self-esteem was relieved when he turned the channel and got engrossed in a sitcom focusing on a man getting fired from his job. This reminded Steve about how truly exhausted he was from working 8 hours. But, at least he had a job, and some cash in his pocket (unlike the poor guy on TV). At that, Steve fell asleep on the couch… without returning any of his missed phone calls.
The next morning, Steve woke with a start. He immediately realized he didn’t return any of the calls he received yesterday. Plus, he hadn’t completed his math homework. Now he’d have to rush through it before turning it in…but only after calling Stella and telling her how absolutely wonderful she was. He had a dream about her, and even though it was stretching the truth, he planned on telling her that he had dreams about her all night long. Stella was into psychology and would love knowing she was the subject of his dreams. The conversation may last awhile, so Steve crossed his fingers that he’d still have time to do his math homework. After all, taking time to patch things up with Stella seemed like a very good reason to put his assignment off just a bit longer. “Sure,” thought Steve. “I could have called her last night, but work got the best of me, and everyone needs sleep. If I don’t get to that math, at least I know I had good reasons.”
1. Based on your knowledge of attribution theory, what reasons would Steve most likely give for his not returning Eugene’s call? Hint: Remember, attribution theory is all about how we explain the behavior of others, but there is one way in which we might use it to explain our own behavior, especially when we think we’ve made a mistake or we’ve done something wrong. For this question, focus on the way Steve might explain his own behavior if he thinks he did something wrong.
2. According to self-perception theory, given that Steve did not call Eugene back, what might Steve conclude about his feelings (attitude) about Eugene, and how might this event affect Steve’s friendship with Eugene?
3. In what way might self-perception theory be in conflict with attribution theory in predicting how Steve will explain his own behavior? Can both theories be correct?
4. Explain Steve’s motivation to call his mother and Stella back. How do intrinsic and extrinsic motivation apply to Steve’s plans to call them back?
5. How might the overjustification effect apply to Steve’s experience?
6. Apply the two-factor theory of emotion to Steve’s experience in listening to his messages.
7. Discuss the way in which social comparison theory can be used to describe Steve’s experience watching TV. Include the concepts upward social comparisons and downward social comparisons in your discussion.
8. How does Steve engage in impression management via self handicapping and ingratiation?
9. Imagine that Steve was raised according to collectivistic cultural values and had an interdependent view of the self. How might this cultural difference have affected Steve’s decision to return calls from his mother, Stella, and Eugene? Explain.
10. Using this case study as your backdrop, how might Steve experience cognitive dissonance the morning he woke up after listening to his messages? What might he do to reduce his dissonance? You can be creative with your example as long as it pertains to the case study and reflects cognitive dissonance theory. Hint: This question is worth twice the amount of the other others, so substantial explanation is expected. Be clear and specific.