Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error Page: 21
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despite a lack of adequate observed behaviors (Temerlin, 1969). It further appears that clinicians
of some theoretical orientations (e.g., psychodynamic) are more likely to endorse dispositional
attributions than others (Langer & Ableson, 1974; Snyder, 1977).
Temerlin's (1969) study lays the groundwork for the present study. An important possible
difficulty with Temerlin's study is related to the use of "psychotic" as the independent variable.
Given what "psychotic" potentially means, Temerlin's results could have been confounded by
clinicians assuming that what the man on the audio recording said was the product of some
overarching delusion. That is, they could have assumed that the man had no insight into his
delusions, which within the time of the recording did not touch on any absurdity; not all
delusions sound "crazy" (Temerlin, 1969). As a result, the participants may have relied on
availability heuristics and conformed to the information provided by an authority figure
regarding psychosis. Furthermore, the influence of a "prestige figure" might have also unduly
influenced the behavior of participants. Lastly, to the present author's knowledge, no previous
study, including Temerlin's has investigated the effect of DSM-specific diagnoses.
To address this possibility, the present study used a diagnosis of borderline PD. Clients
with borderline PD typically elicit a strong response from clinicians, similar to clients with
psychotic phenomena, but without potentially confounding the findings with the often times
unclear presentation of psychotic disorders. The goal of the present study was to determine how
either being made aware, or not, of contextual factors and the presence of a diagnosis affect the
attributions of clinicians. To accomplish this, participants (who were all clinicians in training)
were presented with a video recording of a woman expressing anger towards her therapist. In one
condition, participants were informed of situational factors that influenced her behavior, while
those in the other condition were not. Simultaneously, half of each of these groups was informed
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Schmalz, Jonathan. Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error, thesis, December 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc103389/m1/27/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .