Social perception accuracy in early adolescence: Measurement issues and associations with peer victimization

Date of Completion

January 2001


Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental




The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the extent to which adolescents' meta-perception accuracy of affect (i.e., their knowledge of how well liked or disliked they are by peers) reflects actual social experiences and contributes to self-perceptions. Current theories of social-cognitive development underscore the reciprocal relationship between social perceptions and social experiences. While many researchers have examined the effects of peer acceptance and rejection on adolescents' evaluative self-perceptions, few have focused on adolescents' actual awareness of their social status. Two studies were conducted to evaluate the relevance of various social dimensions for dyadic and generalized meta-accuracy in adolescence and to assess whether meta-accuracy serves as a mediator of the relationship between negative social experiences and psychological maladjustment. ^ The purpose of Study I was to determine whether a grade-wide peer nomination method could yield reliable measures of adolescent meta-perceptions. Support for the utility of the peer nomination method was found. Consistent with previous research, adolescents' meta-perceptions of liking were moderately accurate at both the dyadic and generalized level, whereas their dyadic and generalized meta-perceptions of disliking were less accurate. Both perceiver sex and target sex affected dyadic and generalized meta-accuracy, highlighting the need to consider these factors in future research. ^ Study 2 assessed whether generalized meta-accuracy mediated the relationship between peer victimization and subsequent maladjustment. A three-wave longitudinal study, with yearly measures of each construct, was conducted to examine the associations between victimization, meta-accuracy, and psychological maladjustment. Victimization predicted meta-accuracy for disliking but not for liking. Meta-accuracy for liking and disliking did not predict social psychological adjustment. Negative social self-perceptions predicted later meta-accuracy. The findings corroborate the social interactionist view of reciprocal influence between social experiences and social perceptions in development. ^