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Chapter 5

Chapter 5 - Social Attribution.doc

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McGill University
PSYC 215
John Lydon

Chapter Five SocialAttribution: Explaining Behavior • attribution theory – an umbrella term used to describe the set of theoretical acconts of how people assign causes to the events around them and the effects that people's causal assessments have FromActs to Dispositions: Inferring the Causes of Behavior • causal attribution – linking an event to a cause, such as inferring that a personality trait was responsible for a behavior The Pervasiveness and Importance of CausalAttribution • people's explanations have tremendous consequences in a number of areas, including health and education Explanatory Style andAttribution • explanatory style – a person's habitual way of explaining events, typically assessed along three dimensions ◦ internal/external ▪ internal cause implicates the self ▪ external cause implicates some outside force ◦ stable/unstable ▪ stable cause implies that things will never change ▪ unstable cause implies that things may improve ◦ global/specific ▪ global causes affect many areas of life ▪ specific causes apply to only a few aspects of life • pessimistic explanatory style - explains negative events in terms of internal, stable and global causes • optimistic explanatory style – explains negative events in terms of external, unstable, and specific causes ◦ can make us less prone to despair and encourages more of a can-do outlook Attitudes about Controllability • people's attitudes about controllability have a powerful affect on long-term consequences Gender and Attribution Style • boys are more likely than girls to attribute their failures to lack of effort • girls are more likely to attribute their failures to lack of ability The Process of CausalAttribution • our assessments of others follow rules that make them predictable • we use these dimensions to aid in our judgement-making ◦ how much control another person has over his or her actions ◦ determining whether an outcome is the product of something within the person (internal cause) or a reflection of something about the context or circumstances (external cause) ▪ requires assessments of what most people are like and what most people are likely to do Attribution and Covariation • scientists attempt to isolate the one cause that seems to make a difference in producing the effect; the one that always seems to be present when the effect or phenomenon occurs and absent when the effect or phenomenon is absent • covariation principle – the idea that behavior should be attributed to potential causes that co-occur with the behavior ◦ a situational attribution is called for when consensus, distinctiveness and consistency are all high ◦ a dispositional attribution is called for when consensus, distinctiveness are low, but consistency is high • consensus – what most people would do in a given situation – that is, whether most people would behave the same way or few or no other people would behave that way • distinctiveness – what an individual does in different situations – that is, whether the behavior is unique to a particular situation or occurs in all situations • consistency – what an individual does in a given situation on different occasions – that is, whether next time, under the same circumstances, the person would behave the same or differently Attribution and ImaginingAlternative Actors and Outcomes • sometimes we base judgements on what we imagine might happen under different circumstances or if a different individual was involved The Discounting and Augmentation Principles • discounting principle – the idea that people should assign reduced weight to a particular cause of behavior if other plausible causes might have produced it ◦ a.k.a. You must lower the weight of a particular hypothetical cause if it turns out that there are other causes that contribute the the effect • augmentation principle – the idea that people should assign greater weight to a particular cause of behavior if other causes are present that would normally produce the opposite outcome ◦ we can be more certain that a person's actions reflect what that person is really like if the circumstances would seem to discourage such actions ◦ it is difficult to know what to conclude about someone who acts “in role”, but easy to figure out what to think about someone who acts “out of role” The Influence of WhatAlmost Happened • counterfactual thoughts – thoughts of what might have, could have, or should have happened, “if only” something had been done differently Emotional Effects of Counterfactual Thinking • emotional amplification – a “ratcheting up” of an emotional reaction to an event that is proportional to how easy it is to imagine the event not happening ◦ most common determinants are time and distance ◦ he was “almost there” ▪ 5 seconds left vs. 5 hours left ▪ 5 inches left vs. 5 miles left The Influence of Exceptions versus Routines • another determinant of how easy it is to imagine an event not happening is whether it resulted from a routine action or a departure from the norm • occasions in which deviations from the norm led to negative events may led to overestimation of how often a change of heart leads to a bad outcome Errors and Biases inAttribution The Self-ServingAttributional Bias • self-serving attributional bias – the tendency to attribute failure and other bad events to external circumstances, but to attribute success and other good events to oneself • even a completely rational person, unaffected by motivations to feel good, might make the same pattern of attributions and be justified in doing so ◦ any success is at least partially due to our efforts ◦ failure occurs despite our efforts ▪ a fully rational individual might exhibit a self-serving pattern of attribution because success is generally so much more tightly connected than failure to our intentions and efforts The FundamentalAttribution Error • everyday causal attributions often depart from the general principles of attributional analysis • pervasive tendency to see people's behavior as a reflection of the kind of people they are, instead of their behavior as a result of the situation they find themselves in • “fundamental” ◦ the problem people are trying to solve is so basic and essential ▪ figuring out what someone is like from a sample of behavior ◦ the tendency to think dispositionally (to attribute behavior to the person while ignoring important situational factors) is so common and pervasive Experimental Demonstrations of the FundamentalAttribution Error • if individuals are assigned to write on a given topic, what they write cannot be taken as an indication of what they really believe • when people are compelled to say something that is inconsistent with their beliefs, they normally distance themselves from their statements by subtly indicating that they do not truly believe what they are saying FundamentalAttribution Error and Perceptions of theAdvantaged and Disadvantaged • a common decision: How much credit do we give to those who are succeeding in life? How much blame do we direct at those who are not successful? • people tend to assign too much responsibility to the individual and not enough responsibility to the particular situation, broader social forces, or pure dumb luck • we often fail to see the advantages people were given in life and the disadvantages people were forced to overcome • on average, the very successful among us have worked harder and exercised more talent and skill than the unsuccessful ◦ the successful deserve our admiration – on average ◦ do not lose sight of the relative advantages that people enjoy and disadvantages that people must struggle to overcome ◦ our attributions should reflect the r
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