PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Explanatory Style, Dispositional Attribution, Covariance

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22 Nov 2012
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Chapter Five
Social Attribution:
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
From Acts 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 Causal Attribution
people's explanations have tremendous consequences in a number of areas, including health
and education
Explanatory Style and Attribution
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 Causal Attribution
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
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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 Imagining Alternative 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 What Almost 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
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