Attribution Theory and Public Relations

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An overview of Bernard Wiener's Attribution Theory and the its principles. Also reviews practical application for public relations and in informing crisis management.

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Attribution Theory and Public Relations

  1. 1. Attribution TheoryRyan Ruud COMM 634
  2. 2. Discussion Background on the theory Examples of application  Success/Failure  Romantic Jealousy Communications  Public Relations and Crisis  Corporate Social Responsibility Discussion
  3. 3. Background Bernard Weiner (1980, 1992) Social Psychology and Motivation Theory Continues to be updated, with new updates most relevant to Communications Explores the explanations people tend to make to explain success or failure
  4. 4. Three characteristics in earlytheory Cause of success/failure may be internal or external Cause of success/failure may be stable or unstable Cause of success/failure may be controllable or uncontrollableAssumes people will interpret environment tomaintain positive self-image
  5. 5. The theory evolves Broken down into interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences Refined focus on  Causation  Responsibility  Blame  Intentionality  Controllability
  6. 6. ApplicationsSuccess/Failure Academic successes Likelihood and forecasting
  7. 7. ApplicationsRomantic Jealousy  Examined the perception of romantic advances within partner relationship and outside Explored perceptions and cause OutcomesNegative events judged to be due to Personal causesallow for the assignment of blame, whereas those havingImpersonal causes do not (Weiner, 1995).
  8. 8. Or to put it another way . . .Negative events judged to be due toorganization fault and causes allow forthe assignment of blame, whereas thosehaving external causes (act of God etc.)do not.
  9. 9. Powerful theory Managing crisis
  10. 10. What are traits of a crisis? Unexpected Negative Both are traits, according to Attribution Theory, that drive a person’s need for explanation
  11. 11. Attribution Theory &Crisis Communication First true studies began in the 1980s Can be applied to a variety of crises  Product Harm (Siomkos & Kurzbard, 1994).  Ethical Crises (Bradford & Garrett, 1995). Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) rooted in Attribution Theory Two parts: Reputation before, mangement after crisis.
  12. 12. Attribution Theory inCommunications Assess the threat  Determine initial crisis responsibility  Examine intensifying factors  Consistency  Has this happened before?  Distinctiveness  Prior reputation
  13. 13. Attribution TheoryCorporate SocialResponsibility (CSR) Prior Reputation  Consumers give incentive to companies that are responsible  Perception again is key (attribution theory plays out in the function of assigning incentive)  Can disarm consumers in light of a crisis (attribution theory plays out in the SCCT notion of distinctiveness (Yoon, 2006)
  14. 14. Attribution Theory in Action 2007 Samsung Group Korean Oil Spill  Oil spill was result of something Samsung did  Oil spill was the result of rough weather  Respondent exposed to varying levels of distinctiveness  CSR, unethical management, no change Distinctiveness (perception) can diffuse negative perception and attribution
  15. 15. Key Takeaways The need for explanation How people rationalize the explanation  Controllable/ uncontrollable etc. Place blame, or “get out of jail free” card Proactive PR  CSR Reactive PR  Crisis management (Attribution Theory -> Situational Crisis Communication Theory)
  16. 16. Bauerle, S. Y., Amirkhan, J. H., & Hupka, R. B. (2002). An Attribution Theory Analysis of Romantic Jealousy. Motivation & Emotion, 26(4), 297-319. Coombs, W. (2007). Attribution Theory as a guide for post-crisis communication research. Public Relations Review, 33(2), 135-139. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2006.11.016 Doohwang, L., Hyuk Soo, K., & Jung Kyu, K. (2011). The Impact of Online Brand Community Type on Consumers Community Engagement Behaviors: Consumer-Created vs. Marketer-Created Online Brand Community in Online Social-Networking Web Sites. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 14(1/2), 59-63. doi:10.1089/cyber.2009.0397 Jeong, S. (2009). Publics Responses to an oil spill accident: A test of the attribution theory and situational crisis communication theory. Public Relations Review, 35(3), 307-309. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2009.03.010 Laczniak, R. N., DeCarlo, T. E., & Ramaswami, S. N. (2001). Consumers Responses to Negative Word-of-Mouth Communication: An Attribution Theory Perspective. Journal Of Consumer Psychology (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), 11(1), 57-73. Latta, R., & Patten, R. L. (1978). A test of Weiners attribution theory inertial motivation hypothesis. Journal Of Personality, 46(2), 383. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.ep7380444 Weiner, B. (2000). Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Theories of Motivation from an Attributional Perspective. Educational Psychology Review, 12(1), 1-14. Weiner, B. (2010). The Development of an Attribution-Based Theory of Motivation: A History of Ideas. Educational Psychologist, 45(1), 28-36. doi:10.1080/00461520903433596 Yates, S. (1998). ATTRIBUTIONS ABOUT THE CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF CATACLYSMIC EVENTS. Journal Of Personal & Interpersonal Loss, 3(1), 7-24Any Yoon, Y., Gürhan-Canli, Z., & Schwarz, N. (2006). The Effect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Activities on Companies With Bad Reputations. Journal Of Consumer Psychology (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), 16(4), 377-390. doi:10.1207/s15327663jcp1604_9questions?

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