Perspectives of agent and recipient: Beyond the dichotomy
Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw
Until recently, research on action control and on the content of social information
processing formed quite distant, separate domains of psychological inquiry.
The work of Wojciszke and Baryła provides a highly promising attempt of bridging
these two fields of investigation. In particular, they hypothesize (and present
compelling evidence in support of the idea) that being in a position of the agent
of a goal-directed activity strongly promotes access to ability categories,
whereas being in a position of a recipient of another person's intended action
strongly promotes access to communal (e.g. interpersonal) categories.
In my comment I address three questions. First, I propose to "go beyond the dichotomy"
to consider the importance of the position of a neutral (uninvolved) observer.
In contrast to agent and recipient, the neutral observer may be able to engage in
more complex and less biased processing of social information. Second, I suggest
that not only position in an interaction, but also the content of the goal matters:
It seems reasonable to assume that an agent with a pro-social goal will have at least
partial access to communal categories. Finally, I suggest that the communal
perspective - considered by the Authors as a unified entity - may actually be
comprised of two distinct qualities: interpersonal content and intergroup content.
So far, the research of Wojciszke and Baryła has been focused on the interpersonal,
not intergroup perspective.
Key words: action control, competence vs. communal contents, uninvolved observer, prosocial goals, interpersonal vs. intergroup relations