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Chapter 5

PSY 220 CH.5 summary.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Dan Dolderman

PSY 220 CH.5 SocialAttribution: Explaining Behaviour • Observers are more likely to attribute actions to properties of a person. The person is more inclined to attribute the same action to situational factors. • Attribution theory: An umbrella term used to describe the set of theoretical accounts of how people assign causes to the events around them and the effects that people’s casual assessments have. From Acts to Dispositions: Inferring the Causes of Behaviour • Casual attribution: Linking an event to a cause, such as inferring that a personality trait was responsible for a behaviour. The Pervasiveness and Importance of CasualAttribution • Attributions are a constant part of life. • Systematic research on casual attribution has shown that 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 3 dimensions: internal/external, stable/unstable, and global/specific. • Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman asks groups to pick 6 different good and bad situations and answer questions about the causes (Is it due to something I did, will it happen again, and will it influence other aspects of our lives?) The answers are all combined to form an overall explanatory style index, which is then correlated with an outcome variable of interest. • They also tested to see if there was a correlation between an explanatory style and health. Explanatory style during young adulthood is a significant predicator of physical health later in life. Attributions about Controllability • People can be trained to adopt more productive attributional tendencies for academic outcomes. Doing so has beneficial effects on subsequent academic performance. Gender andAttribution Style • Boys are more likely than girls to attribute their failures to lack of effort, and girls are more likely to attribute their failures due to lack of ability. This is partly due to the way things are laid out in school (boys being told that is messy where as girls being told that is not right). • Argued that girls learn that criticism means that they aren’t lack intellectual ability, whereas boys learn that criticism means they haven’t worked hard enough or paid enough attention to detail. The Processes of CasualAttribution • Only by knowing the cause of a given event can we grasp the true meaning of what has happened and anticipate what is likely to happen next. • Aparticularly important focus of attributional analysis is determining whether an outcome is the product of something within a person (internal or dispositional cause) or a reflection of something about the context/circumstances (external or situational cause). • Determining whether certain actions are the product of internal versus external causes requires assessments of whatmost people are like and what most people are likely to do. Attribution and Covariation • Covariation principle: The idea that behaviour should be attributed to potential causes that co-occur with the behaviour. • Psychologists believe that there are 3 types of covariation information that are particularly important: Consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency. • 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. • All else being equal, the more an individual’s reaction is shared by others, the less it is to say about the individual. • Distinctiveness: What an individual does in different situations – that is, whether the behaviour is unique to a particular situation or occurs in all situations. • The more someone’s reaction is confined to a particular situation, the less it says about the individual, and the more it says about the specific situation. • Consistency: What an individual does in a given situation – that is, whether next time under the same circumstances, the person would behave the same or differently. • The more an individual’s reaction is specific to a given occasion, the harder it is to make a definite attribution either to the person or the situation. • Asituational attribution is called for when all these sources are high.Adispositional attribution is called for when consensus and distinctiveness are low, but consistency is high. Attribution and Imagining AlternativeActors and Outcomes • Sometimes we base our judgements on what we imagine might happen. The Discounting andAugmentation Principles • Discounting principle: The idea that people should assign reduced weight to a particular cause of behaviour if other plausible causes might have produced it. • Augmentation principle: The idea that people should assign greater weight to a particular cause of behaviour if other causes are present that normally would produce the opposite outcome. • One important implication of the discounting and augmentation principles is that it can be difficult to know what to conclude about someone who behaves ‘in role,’but easy to figure out what to think about someone who acts ‘out of role.’ The Influence of WhatAlmost Happened • Counterfactual thought: 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. • Our emotional reaction to an event tens to be more intense if it almost did not happen. • Pain or joy gotten from an event tends to be proportional to how easy it is to imagine that event not happening. • Guy gets in plane crash. Survives. Hikes 75km and dies from exposure. He was ¼ km away from safety. People asked whether his family should get more compensation for being 1/4km from safety or being 75 km from safety suggested larger amounts for the guy that almost made it. (Miller and McFarland). • People who win Silver medal at Olympics more upset than those who win bronze. Triumph of many lost over the defeat by one. The Influence of Exception versus Routines • Man goes shopping and is severely injured while it is robbed. People more inclined to give the man more compensation for his troubles if he only visited that store for a change of pace versus being his normal every week shopping store. (Miller and McFarland). • Influenced ourselves when we debate a change of line in a grocery store and our new line slows down, while the old sped up. Errors and Biases inAttribution • Our casual attributions are occasionally subject to predictable error and biases. The Self-ServingAttributional Bias • Self-serving attributional bias: The tendency to attribute failure and other bad events to external circumstances, but attribute success and other good events to oneself. • People exhibit a self-serving bias in their attributions because doing so makes them feel good about themselves, or at least prevents them from feeling bad. • Self-serving attributional bias is then a motivational bias – motivated by the desire to maintain one’s self esteem. • Though it isn’t motivation to feel good about themselves that drives these attributions sometimes. Imagine a student who needs help. Gets tutored and does poorly on first examination. Tutor doubles efforts and the student goes on to either do poorly or improve. Teachers may say their efforts helped the student improve and that in the other case, the student did not make an effort.Analysis of the data though, proves this to be correct. The teacher’s efforts improved student performance.An attribution to the teacher would therefore be fully justified. • It can be difficult to tell from the pattern of attributions alone whether someone has made an attribution to protect self-esteem; such a pattern could be the result of purely rational analysis. The FundamentalAttribution Error • Milgram experiment looked at through covariance would attribute the outcome to the situation because 2/3 of all people went to the end of the experiment (consensus is high). • The tendency to attribute people’s behaviour to elements of their character or personality, even when powerful situational forces are acting to produce the behaviour, is known as the fundamental attribution error. Experimental Demonstrations of the FundamentalAttribution Error • Participants were told to read a pro-Castro or anti-Castro essay with the topic being ‘write a short, cogent essay, either defending or criticizing Castro’s Cuba as if you were giving the opening statement in a debate.” Participants then rated the writer’s views on Castro. Those who read a pro-Castro essay assumed the writers
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