Objectives. Formal features of a questionnaire influence self-reports on central psychological constructs such as causal attributions: Using open-response formats Norenzayan and Schwarz (1999) demonstrated that respondents provided causal explanations for a given event corresponding with the researcher’s communicated research field. Extending this, our research investigates the influence of emphasising the researcher’s expertise on causal attributions using closed-response formats. Methods. In a 3 (field of research: personality, social, criminology) × 2 (emphasis of expertise: yes, no) between-subjects design, students (N = 144) rated the importance of specified personality-based causal explanations for a crime. Results. ANCOVA analysis (covariates: age, gender, personality dimensions) yielded a significant disordinal medium-sized interaction: When expertise was emphasised for the personality researcher, importance ratings of personality reasons decreased, whereas these ratings increased when expertise was emphasised for the social researcher. Conclusion. Respondents oppose authority and emphasise causal attributions contrary to the researcher’s epistemic interest when expertise is emphasised.
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