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PS102 Lecture Notes - Fritz Heider, Philip Zimbardo, Fundamental Attribution Error

Course Code
Don Morgenson

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Chapter 8
Attribution Theory
- Study to the extent to which you attribute to personal behaviors or to external contextual
- Fundamental attribution error is ignoring the context in which the behaviors occur
- Important for social psychology: Explains why people explain things the way they do
- We attribute causes
Fritz Heider
- Tried to explain what happens to people
- Explain events, behavior, etc.
- Looked for causes within and outside of the person (internal-personality traits, characteristics,
drives, etc, external situational demands, environmental constraints, etc)
e.g. you get in an accident, your friends say that it is due to your bad driving habits (internal) whereas
you blame it on the slippery roads (external)
People explain themselves more likely externally whereas others judge people normally more internally
1. Sometimes a complete understanding of the context is not available (making the most efficient
and reasonable choice)
2. Easier
3. Most of us have never been in circumstances such as Milgrams we assume other
circumstances are less intense
Blaming victims for their behavior Just-world-behavior-hypothesis
- If circumstances create bad behavior than people are vulnerable to do those things (follow)
- When we blame the victim is suggests a just world
- Tend to interrogate the victim (It is easier to blame them especially when you were not there for
the situation)
Prison study Stanford
- Philip Zimbardo
- Study of prison life
- Paid $15 a day
- They were randomly assigned roles: prisoners and guard
- Supposed to run for 2 weeks
- Made a mock prison out of a Stanford building
- People were arrested at their home by real prisoners
- Prisoners were being abused, deprived of sleep, food was manipulated
- They dehumanized prisoners
- The study was stopped after 5 days
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