Fritz Heider an Austrian psychologist first introduced the Attribution Theory. He published The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations , which marked the starting point of attribution theory . Within this book, the psychological processes that influence human social perception is presented. Bernard Weiner , social psychologist, is known for developing a form of attribution theory in the late 1980s, which explains the emotional and motivational factors of success and failure in academic settings. Several social and behavioral theories have surfaced under the umbrella of the attribution theory. There are no empirical tools that have developed related to the theory. Well, what is an attribution? Slide - Attribution is the process of drawing inferences. We see a person act and immediately reach conclusions that goes beyond our senses of hearing, seeing, or feeling .
Slide Factors that determine attribution include effect on self-esteem or the fact that(everyone behaves in that manner, so it is just a habit or manifestation of conformity) Causes of behavior may be divided as two components: Situational -, where the cause of behavior is attributed to external factors such a delays or reaction of others and dispositional - cause of behavior attributed to internal factors such as personality or character. As stated in the study by Furst and Cable, One of the most useful ways in which individuals may search for meaning is by comparing a person’s present behavior with past behaviors. Actions that are consistent with past behaviors typically are assigned a dispositional or internal cause, whereas actions that are inconsistent with past behaviors are assigned a situational cause. Slide People tend to attribute their successes to dispositional factors, and their failures to situational factors. People want to make every situation a cause and effect relationship even when it may not be.
Side Slide This is because they believe success is due to high ability and effort Failure doesn't affect their self-esteem but success builds pride and confidence.
Slide Slide Even when low achievers are successful, it isn't as rewarding to the low achiever because he/she doesn't feel responsible, it doesn't increase his/her pride and confidence. Slide If a nurse observes a colleague performing a procedure incorrectly on a patient, he is likely to try to form an attributional explanation for this behavior. The nurse might conclude that his colleague is poorly trained, meaning that the observer is attributing the behavior to insufficient skills. People also form attributions for their own behaviors and outcomes. For example, a physician might attribute her success in diagnosing a patient’s rare disease to her intelligence and training, or to good luck.
Slide Within the nursing practice, there is a mix of high and low achievers. This mix can be used to achieve unit and organizational goals. These goals can encourage low achievers to see their ability and build confidence needed to make changes to succeed. These changes could lead to autonomy. We will also tend to credit less changeability to other people than ourselves, seeing ourselves as more multidimensional and less predictable than others. This may well because we can see more of what is inside ourselves which tends to be more positive. Slide The problem that I have with the theory is that we will even tend to blame victims, of us and of others. for their fate as we seek to distance ourselves from thoughts of suffering the same predicament. If a physician misdiagnoses a patient and attributes this medical error to his own carelessness, he is making an internal attribution. If the same outcome is attributed to faulty lab results even though the patient’s symptoms contradicted the lab results, the physician is making an external attribution. Internal attributions for undesirable events or behaviors are frequently associated with self-focused negative emotions, such as guilt and shame. External attributions for the same behaviors and outcomes are generally associated with externally focused negative emotions, such as anger and resentment
Slide Suggests that a leader’s understanding of and ability to predict how people will react to events around them are enhanced by knowing their causal explanations for those events. Slide Actually, what we want to promote is not purely effort attributions, but rather strategic effort attributions - that is, people need to believe that working hard in a particular way is what leads to success. By consistently helping their staff make strategic effort attributions, we can encourage them to view failures as problem solving situations in which the search for an improved strategy becomes the main focus of attention. As mentioned in the study by Lagnado, When we assess people’s attributions, it is important to distinguish between judgments of cause and blame. Someone can cause an outcome, but not be to blame for it; someone can also be blameworthy for an outcome they did not cause.
Learning goals are set by individuals who seek to increase their competence. People who emphasize learning goals are likely to seek challenges, if they believe the challenges will lead to greater competence; and they tend to respond to failure by increasing their effort It is good to encourage staff to set and pursue learning goals rather than performance goals which Empowerment refers to a heightened state of motivation caused by optimistic effort-reward expectations These accurate attributions help steer employees down the path toward empowerment, and managers can assist in the process by providing honest and accurate assessments of the causes of employees’ performance. Weiner focused his attribution theory on achievement. Ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck as the most important factors affecting attributions for achievement. By determining the beliefs a person holds regarding his or her power to affect situations, it strongly influences both the power a person actually has to face challenges competently and the choices a person is most likely to make before they make those choices. By doing so. We are able to control hostile situation and repeat efforts and events that reflect positive atmospheres.
Misha Hawkins, BSN, RN
• Introduced by Fritz Heider in 1958.
• Attribution refers to “the process of explaining
one's own behavior and the behavior of others”
• The Attribution Theory discusses how people
describe events and experiences in their lives
and how they adapt to the results of those
OVERVIEW OF THE
• The rationale behind the theory is to recognize why a
situation happened so that future events can be
anticipated and controlled.
• The theory proposes that people’s actions are
attributable to internal and external factors.
• Situational or Dispositional
• Most people state that they are able to explain or
“attribute” the causes of someone’s or their own
behavior or actions.
OVERVIEW OF THE
• The Attribution theory can
be used to explain the
difference in motivation
between high and low doers.
• High achievers will attempt,
rather than evade,
responsibilities related to
• High achievers believe that
failure is considered to be
caused by bad luck and is not
STRENGTHS OF THE
• The Attribution Theory can used for people to
blame others and avoid personal convictions.
• Low achievers avoid activities that lean towards
success because they tend to doubt their abilities
• Low achievers presume accomplishments are
related to luck or other factors beyond their
control, not themselves.
WEAKNESSES OF THE
• The theory is a great method to
use to create a sense of
motivation for a person or a
group of people.
• People tend to interpret their
environment that will create a
positive self image.
• Causes issues with judgment of
self and others.
PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE
• Leaders should have an understanding of their
staff’s reaction to certain situations.
• Leaders should identify characteristics that guide
attributions for achievement.
• The theory provides an outlet for management to
allow their staff to have feelings of self-efficacy.
• Management should also be able to gauge cause and
effect of specific situations.
USEFULNESS OF THE THEORY
IN MANAGEMENT PRACTICE
• Use to set strategic learning goals
• Use of prediction of behaviors
USE OF THE THEORY
Nursing Planet (2011). Attribution Theory. Retrieved from
Clark, C.C. (2009). Creative nursing leadership and management. Sudbury, MA:
Jones and Bartlett.
Furst, S.A., & Cable, D.M., (2008). Employee resistance to organizational change:
Managerial influence tactics and leader–member exchange. Journal of Applied Psychology,
Gibson, J. L., Ivancevich, J. M., Donnelly, J. H., & Konopaske, R. (2012).
Organizations: behavior, structure, processes (14th ed). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lagnado, D.A., & Channon, S. (2008). Judgments of cause and blame: The effects
of intentionality and foreseeability. Cognition, 108(3), 754-770.