Method

Participants were 382 children (198 boys and 184 girls) who had just completed the second, fourth, and sixth grades (average ages 8, 10, and 12 years). The ethnic composition of the sample reflected that of an urban public school system in the northwestern United States (approximately 85% European-American and 15% other ethnic groups).

Sociometric data were collected and peer status was determined using the modified Coie, et al. (1982) method described by Terry and Coie (1991). For the peer status data reported here, the sample included true average (n = 49), popular (n = 58), and rejected children (n = 66), (unclassified children, those who do not meet criteria for any of the status groups, were eliminated from these analyses to make the average group more homogeneous, following the recommendation of Terry and Coie, 1991).

During a 1-hour laboratory play session, children were invited to play a computer game with an unfamiliar child of the same age and gender, who was a peer confederate. To increase participants' motivation to do well and care about the outcome of the game, they were told that a desirable prize would be given to the winner. After a brief practice session, the computer game was programmed to repeatedly (but not obviously) give an advantage to the actor so that the actor won approximately 75% of the rounds of the game. The child actors were trained to make a standard set of provoking remarks as they won rounds of the game. The remarks focused on the participant's competence at the game ("You're not very good at computer games, are you?", "Why don't you try a little harder?" and "That prize has my name on it.").

Play sessions were videotaped. Participants' facial and verbal responses to the provoking comments were reliably coded (kappa's for faces ranged from .4 to .8, kappa's for verbalizations ranged from .5 to .85). Facial responses immediately following provoking comments were coded as angry, sad, neutral, or happy. Verbal responses were coded into 39 categories of fairly specific statements related to the game and the actor. On conceptual grounds, these 39 categories were collapsed into 12 categories of verbal responses for the analyses: no immediate verbal response, negative, self-negative, game not working, distraction, game talk, humor, and positive.

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