Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth M. Legerski


In this study I research how the refusal of genetic testing shapes people's perceptions of responsibility or attribution for a friend's breast cancer diagnosis, emotions, and willingness to help. Bernard Weiner's theory of attribution and emotion is useful for understanding how blame and causation shape one's willingness to help. Weiner's theory suggests that perceived attributions influence one's emotional state, which in turn shapes their willingness to help others. Most studies using Weiner's attribution theory examine highly stigmatized illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and mental illness, but few analyses consider breast cancer and even fewer have assessed how the availability of genetic testing might shape attribution. How might the availability of genetic testing shape one's emotions toward breast cancer patients? Will willingness to help diminish if causation and blame for the cancer are perceived as controllable, such as when a patient refuses available testing?

The data analyzed in this research were collected using a group-administered survey at UND in 2008. A total of 170 surveys were analyzed using OLS regression techniques. The sample was randomly given one of two factious scenarios regarding a friend named Amber who has a family history of breast cancer and is diagnosed with breast cancer. In one scenario Amber does not receive a recommendation to genetic test from her doctor (so she doesn't seek testing) and in the second Amber rejects her doctor's recommendation and does not get genetic testing for breast cancer. The findings do not

show that refusal of genetic testing shapes a person's willingness to help. The findings do suggest that attribution of responsibility matters when shaping a willingness to help, particularly in the way that it shapes people's emotions toward others, providing support for Weiner's causal model. This research also shows that gender is a factor that shapes willingness to help.