Reading 6:Attribution and Interpersonal Perception
- Attribution theories describe what psychological operations take place that lead people to embrace
situational or dispositional interpretations of other people’s behavior, but not why these happened.
The Logic ofAttribution
• Attributional Equation CORE: Behavior = Situation + Disposition
- Decision Rule Discounting Principle:An observer should not conclude that a person has a unique
predisposition to behave when the person does exactly what the situation demands.
An observer shouldn’t assume that D is positive or negative when S and B are equal.
- Nondiagnostic Behavior: the sort of behavior that the situation demands.
It tells us nothing about the person’s dispositional tendencies to behave.
The Correspondence Bias
• People SORT OF obey the discounting principle.
- Right: when the essayist was free to write, subjects took his essay as direct evidence of his opinion.
- Wrong: when the essayist was following, subjects still took his essay as direct evidence of his opinion.
Apro-Castro essayist who chose his own topic was judged to have a more favorable opinion of Castro
than was a pro-Castro essayist who was merely following orders.
Apro-Castro essayist who was merely following orders was judged to have a more favorable opinion of
Castro than was an anti-Castro essayist who was merely following orders.
• Correspondence Bias/FundamentalAttribution Error: the tendency to conclude that a person has a
disposition that corresponds to his behavior even when that behavior is attributable to the situation.
The Causes of Correspondence Bias
- The damning 确确确 objectionssuggestthat somefunny quirk 确确 of theexperimental setting causedsubjects
to makejudgmentsthat they wouldn’t normally make; which hasbeenruled out.
- Theinteresting objectionssuggest general psychological mechanismsthat might causepeopleto make
dispositional attributionswhenthey shouldn’t.
- “No estimate is more in danger of erroneous calculations than those by which a man computes the force
of his own genius”.
Human beings tend to see the world as they wish to see it.
• 1 Reason: people PREFER to make dispositional attributions, because it gives us a sense of control.
1. General Dispositionalist Worldview: what happens to them is pretty much their own doing.
Correspondence bias is actually less pervasive in collectivist cultures that don’t share this worldview.
2. Need for Predictive Control: of another’s actions.
Players: played the game with the target.
Normal Observers: watched the player and the target as they played the game.
Expectant Observers: watched the game with the belief that they would play against the target on the 2 nd
Post-expectant Observers: watched the game without expecting to play it, but when the 1 round was
over, they were suddenly told that they would play the target in the 2 round.
- Although all subjects viewed the same competitive / cooperative behavior, players, expectant players,
and post-expectant players clearly made more dispositional attributions than did normal observers.
- Playing or expecting to play a game should increase one’s desire to predict another’s behavior.
• 2 Reason: the tendency for people to underestimate the power of situations. 1. Situations are often invisible.
- People often don’t realize that there’s a constraining situation to be considered.
Observers considered the quizmaster to be more knowledgeable than the contestant.
Quizmasters and contestants rated themselves in just the same way.
Everyone showed correspondence bias.
- Because the role-conferred advantage is not a thing that can be seen.
2. People underestimate the capacity of situational forces to alter behavior.
- Why is there a disparity between what we think we would do and what we actually do in situations?
- Because when we’re asked how we would behave in a certain situation, our psychological construal of
that situation doesn’t usually include all its intricate 确确确确确 details.
• Things aren’t always how they feel.
- Although it feels like we can see what behavior is, such seeing is actually a complex inferential process.
Behavior such as helping isn’t an action but an action identification, which can go wrong.
- Our expectations exert a particularly strong influence on what we perceive others to do.
Oftentimes we don’t even know we have expectations until they’re violated.
• 3 Reason: the power of expectations influences our identifications of another’s behavior.
- PerceptualAssimilation: the psychiatrist “read in” to the behavior what he expected to see there.
It’s the nature of perception that we often see behaviors as conforming more to our expectations than they
• Two-Stage Model ofAttribution:
- Action identification precedes attributional inference.
Having information about the situational constraints on a target can increase the accuracy of our
attributions (by preventing us from underestimating S) and decrease the accuracy of our identifications (by
causing us to overestimate B).
- Unambiguously calm target to be less dispositionally fearful when he was calm while being chased by
bees than when he was calm while awarded a bundle of cash.
- Ambiguous target to be more dispositionally fearful when they were in a scary than a nonscary situation
Good, solid information can have negative as well as positive consequences.
Good, solid information can promote as well as prevent correspondence bias.
• The effect of a situation may be subtracted out during attribution, but the two-stage model shows that
this effect can sne