January 24, 2012 – PSYCH 2310 – S. Safdar
Attitudes and Attribution Across Cultures
MAKING ATTRIUBTIONS IN INTERCULTURAL INTERACTIONS
- culture becomes an important factor when we answer why things happen in
- types of explanations:
I got 92% because I’m smart. IF YOU SUCCEED, YOU SAY IT
o task difficulty
I got 57% because the exam was difficult. IF YOU DON’T
SUCCEED, YOU SAY IT WAS EXTERNAL FACTORS.
I did well because I studied and came to all lectures.
I got 57% because I was unlucky – too many questions from
the section I did not read.
- Cultures tend to use different explanations for success and failure.
MAKING ATTRIBUTIONS IN INTERCULTURAL INTERACTIONS
- isomorphic attribution (Triandis, 1977)
o eg. Samurai says “I want to sleep with you” – you take it as a sexual
advancement – actually means “I trust you enough to sleep in the
same room as you without you cutting my throat.”
CULTURAL STYLE OF ATTRIBUTION
- in individualistic cultures people tend to focus on the individual as
determining the cause of behaviour
o people attribute success to ability and failure to external factors
- in collectivistic cultures people to give greater emphasis on external causes of
o People attribute success to help from others and failure to the lack of
FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR
- is it possible that the fundamental attribution error is a uniquely western
- Miller (1984)
o Participants: American and Asian Indians of varying ages
o They had to describe the cause of actions they had observed in their
JOAN MILLER’S STUDY (1984)
- age 8, we find no difference between American and Indian
- but as people get older and enculturated, the style of attribution came to vary
– amongst American, we find more internal attribution – it increases – the
events that happen to them are based on internal factors January 24, 2012 – PSYCH 2310 – S. Safdar
- in terms of external attribution, they take into account situational factor
significantly more then Americans – as they get older, Indians = external
- no fundamental attribution error, is not fundamental to human being – it is
fundamental in the west (?)
MASUDA AND NISBETT’S STUDY (2001)
o both American and Japanese college students recalled details about
the focal fish a nearly equal extent
o Japanese students, however, reported significantly more detailed
about the supporting cast in the background.
o They have a fuller picture, more holistic view of the context.
- how bicultural individuals make attributions for human behaviour?
- Chinese think like Americans when they see American images (internal
attributions are seen), but when shown Chinese images, they make more
HONG ET AL. STUDY (2000)
o Those with bicultural identity made more situational attribution when
Chinese images were presented and less situational attribution when
American images were given.
o Social perceptions are fluid and depend on which culture is brought to
mind. It’s like speaking two languages. You automatically switch
personalities and put yourself into that culture.
- self-serving attributions
o tendency of explaining one’s success to internal disposition factors and
one’s failure to external situational factors
o we do that to protect our self-esteem and feel good about ourselves –
it’s a coping mechanism which works here in the West