ATTRIBUTION THEORY Attributions - are the reasons which we give for our own and others behaviors. People are motivated to understand the causes of behavior. Attribution theory seeks to explain how and why people make these causal attributions.
PERSONAL ATTRIBUTION Explanations in terms of personal characteristics. For example: “The baby must be a happy baby.” Other examples: “He scored well on the exam because he is smart.” “She tripped because she is clumsy.”
SITUTIONAL ATTRIBUTION Explanations in terms of situational factors. For example: “Someone must have just played with the baby .” Other examples: “He scored well because it was an easy test.” “She tripped because a squirrel ran in front of her.”
Fundamental Attribution Error The fundamental attribution error occurs when we overestimate how much another persons behavior can be explained by dispositional factors. It reflects failing to adequately consider the role of some situational factors that may affect a persons behavior
Self-serving bias The self-serving bias is the tendency to judge oneself in a positive manner even when the positive evaluation is not justified. For example:“I did well on the test because I am smart,”or“I did poor on the test because I didn’t getenough sleep.
How do people make attributions? Kelley argued that people take three factors into account when making a personal vs. situational attribution: Consistency: Is the baby always smiling? Distinctiveness: Are there occasions on which the baby doesn’t smile? Consensus: Do all babies smile?
If consistency is high, and distinctiveness / consensus are low, then a personal attribution is more likely: “The baby is always smiling, never displays other emotions (like crying), and this is not typical of babies in general. Therefore, this baby must have a happy disposition.” If consistency is high, and distinctiveness / consensus are also high, then a situational attribution is more likely. “The baby is always smiling when tickled, but displays different emotions in other circumstances. Smiling when tickled is typical of all babies. Therefore, this baby is smiling
Example A researcher assigned participants to read out loud either a pro-Castro essay or an anti-Castro essay. A group of listeners rated the extent to which the reader held pro-Castro or anti-Castro beliefs. Even though the listeners knew that the readers had no choice in which essay to read, the raters judged the pro- Castro readers as being more pro-Castro than the anti- Castro readers. The listeners failed to take into account the strong situational factor present (that the readers had no choice about which essay to read).
Choice leads to stronger attributionsof liking.