November 18 , 2013
Social Thinking and Social Influence (Ch. 7)
Person Perception: Attributions and Errors
Ask ourselves why a certain event occurred?
Different causal explanations (attributions) cause different perceptions on it
Part 1: Attribution Theory: Perceiving the Causes of Behaviour
A) Fritz Heider (1944): Perceiving stability in an unstable world.
How do we perceive stability an in unstable world? How do I know a ball will roll if I
put it on a slope but a block won’t? If a student continuously does bad on exams why
do I still see them as an intelligent student?
- Heider’s Insights:
1. We perceive stability by making attributions
Person attributions: aka “dispositional”; “internal” attributions
o Reflect stable properties of people
Environment attributions: “situational”; “external” attributions
o Reflect stable properties of environments
2. We have a need to perceive stability
Gives us a sense of understanding, prediction, and control
A ball will stay stable as a ball because it is round
- Person attributions depend on perceived intentions
Equifinality: Persona’s behaviour is directed toward a single goal despite
changes in the circumstances
o Conclude that person intended the behaviours (sets the stage for a
person attributions – cause of behaviour stems from within the
o Angry at student, pushes chair out of the way, and hit him on head.
Was this intended?
B) Correspondent Inference Theory: (Jones & Davis: From Acts to Dispositions)
1. A “Two-Step” process (not same as p.216)
Step 1: Was the Behaviour intended?
Behaviour was freely chosen?
Person could foresee consequences of behaviour?
-If “no” behaviour is perceived as unintended (can’t infer anything about a person’s
-If “yes”, behaviour is perceived as intended, proceed to Step 2.
Step 2: Make a dispositional attribution (or “correspondent inference”):
An inference is correspondent when the same label can be used to describe both the
behaviour and the underlying disposition (e.g., conclude person is dispositionally
“friendly” after observing “friendly” behavior)
How do we do this? Two approaches:
Analysis of non-common effects associated with chosen action. Note: November 18 , 2013
o For every action we choose to take, there are other actions that we
choose not to take (“chosen” and “non-chosen” actions)
o All actions (chosen and non-chosen) have potential “effects”
Some will be common to both chosen and non-chosen actions
Some will be non-common (or unique) to the chosen action
o CI most likely when chosen action has few non-common effects (a
single, unique effect)
o Ex. Lisa married Ted (not Dirk)
Ted – chosen act
Nice personality } Common Effects
Wants kids – Non-Common Effect
Santa Barbara - too many non-common effects
Dirk – non-chosen act
Nice personality } Common Effect
No kids – Non-Common Effect
o CI most likely when behaviour disconfirms expectancies
E.g., “Category-based” expectancies (expectancies for a group of
people) – firefighter and a random run into burning house to
save someone: who is the hero?
2. Revised version: Motivational Biases:
Hedonic Relevance: We’ll make CI’s when person’s behaviour pleases or
displeases us (vs. someone else), even if unintended
Personalism: CI’s likely when person intentionally does something that
pleases/displeases us (vs. someone else)
o If you intentionally ran your car into mine, more likely to think you’re
a jerk than if you intentionally ran your car into someone elses’
Part 2: Attributional Errors
Situations have a powerful influence on behaviour (