The Decision to Attempt Interpersonal Control: The Case of Nonsmoker-Smoker Interactions

Bryan Gibson, Carol M. Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Recent theory and research indicate that people are more likely to attempt interpersonal control when that behavior is supported by contextual cues. Related work suggests that individuals feet most comfortable with their behavior when contextual cues are congruent and their behavior is congruent with these clear cues. These hypotheses were tested in the context of smoker-nonsmoker interactions, with degree of support for attempting control manipulated via a 2 x 2 factorial design. Rules of the situation were varied through placement of either a “Smoking Permitted” or “No Smoking” sign in the experimental room. Interpersonal cues from the smoker (a research confederate) were manipulated when the smoker either did or did not ask for permission to smoke. As expected, nonsmokers were more likely to ask the smoker not to smoke when both situational rules and interpersonal cues supported them. Task performance, tolerance to frustration, and mood were assessed as indicators of short-term stress. As hypothesized, these indices indicated most stress when the manipulated variables provided conflicting messages as well as when behavior did not match congruent situational and interpersonal cues. It is suggested that administrators can prevent stressful interpersonal encounters by clearly marking smoking and nonsmoking areas. Furthermore, when in a smoking area, smokers who request permission to smoke may inadvertently produce stress in nonsmokers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-284
Number of pages16
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1992


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