Adolescents' reactions to hypothetical peer group conversations: evidence for an imaginary audience?
ABSTRACT The theory of adolescent egocentrism holds that early adolescents have a distorted understanding of self-other relations; because of flaws in the traditional methods used to assess adolescent egocentrism, this notion has never received adequate empirical scrutiny. In the present research, the nature of early adolescent social cognition as characterized by that theory was investigated by examining age differences in judgments of hypothetical peer group conversations. In Study 1, children and early adolescents (N = 264) rated the attentiveness, criticalness, and admiration expressed in three conversations, in which the subject or a peer was mentioned in either an admiring, critical, or nonevaluative manner. In Study 2, a similar procedure was used with middle and late adolescents, as well as children and early adolescents (N = 187); two memory tasks were also administered to visit the issue of distortion in social cognition. In Study 3, a new sample (N = 1,019) representing the four age groups from Study 2 was presented with an ambiguous conversation and then asked to interpret who was the target (object of focus) and how that target was regarded. The findings from the three studies do not support the notion that adolescents believe others are attentive to and critical of their every move, or that their social cognition and perception is egocentric and distorted. Conceptual and methodological contributions are discussed, along with directions for additional research.