Social Thinking and Social Influence
Person Perception: Attributions and Errors
November 19, 2012
PART ONE: Attribution Theory – Perceiving the Causes of Behaviour
A. Fritz Heider (1944): Perceiving stability in an unstable world.
1) Heider‟s Insights:
a. We perceive stability by making attributions:
>Person Attributions: “dispositional” and “internal” attributions
-reflect stable properties of people
>Environment Attributions: “situational” and “external”
-reflect stable properties of environments
-ex) situation demands friendly behaviour
b. We have a need to perceive stability:
-gives us a sense of understanding, prediction and control
2) Person attributions depend on perceived intentions
-Equifinality = person‟s behaviour is directed toward a single goal despite
changes in the circumstances.
-when equifinality exists we conclude that person intended the behaviour
(sets the stage for person attributes – cause of behaviour stems from
within the person).
B. Correspondent Inference Theory (Jones & Davis: From Acts to Dispositions)
1) A “Two-Step” process (not the same as pg. 216)
Step 1: What the behaviour intended?
-was behaviour freely chosen?
-could person foresee consequences of behaviour?
-If NO, behaviour is perceived as unintended (cant infer anything
about person‟s disposition)
-If YES, behaviour is perceived as intended (proceed to step 2)
Step 2: Make a dispositional attribution (or “correspondent inference”)
-Same label can be used to describe „behaviour‟ and underlying
„disposition‟. (eg. conclude person is dispositionally friendly after observing
-*How do we do this?? Two Approaches*:
a) Analysis of non-common effects associated with chosen action.
>Note: for every action we choose to take, there are other actions that we
choose not to take („chosen‟ and „non-chosen‟ actions). And all actions
(chosen and non-chosen) have potential „effects‟ (consequences). Some
will be common to both chosen and non-chosen actions; some will be non-
common or unique to chosen action.
-Correspondent inferences most likely when chosen action has few non-
common effects (a single, unique effect)
-Ex) Lisa married Ted (not Dirk)
Ted = chosen act. (good looking, nice personality, romantic)
Dirk = non-chosen act. (good looking, nice personality, romantic)
COMMON EFFECTS Ted = wants children, Santa Barbara, wealthy
Dirk = does not want children, NYC, poor
-too many non-common effects = unclear why she chose Ted or her
b) CI likely when behaviour disconfirms expectancies
-Ex) “Category-based” expectancies (expectancies for a group of people)
[if a person does what expected to do then doesn‟t tell much about CI]
2) Revised Version: Motivational Biases;
a) Hedonic Relevance: We‟ll make CI‟s when person‟s behaviour pleases
or displeases us (vs. someone else), even if unintended!
(car on hill accidently rolls and hits my car, more likely to draw you‟re a
careless person than when it happens to someone else‟s car)
b) Personalism: CI‟s likely when person intentionally pleases/displeases
us (vs. someone else)
PART TWO: Attributional Errors
-situations have a powerful influence on behaviour (chap 7)
-but we aren‟t always aware of these situational influences
-when explaining oth