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Chapter 10

CHAPTER 10 NOTES - Motivation

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PSYC 2230
Frank Marchese

CHAPTER 10: COGNITIVE MOTIVATION: ATTRIBUTION APPROACHES Attribution Theory: The study of how we make decisions concerning the events we experience • Attribution theories concerns factors assumed by the general public to cause people's behaviours • People attribute behaviour to particular factors - usually either to consistent personality characteristics (dispositions) or to aspects of the social situation of the persons involved Three Assumptions of the Attribution Theory 1. We do attempt to determine the causes of both our own behaviour and that of others o We are motivated to seek out information that helps us make attributions about all cause-and-effect relationships o Shermer, proposes that causal reasoning is evolutionary adaptive; it helps us to understand and consequently control our environment o According to Shermer, we are descendants of those individuals who were best able to correctly attribute cause-and-effect o Attributions of human behaviour also stem from a need to control our behaviour o Understanding the motive behind someone's actions gives us cues as to how to respond 1. The assignment of causes to behaviour is not done randomly; that is, rules exist that can explain how we come to the conclusions we do about the causes of behaviour o Beck has pointed out the conceptual similarity between expectancies and attributions • An expectancy is a belief (cognition) that one thing will follow from another • Attribution is a belief but it's often the reverse of an expectancy; that is, an attribution is a belief that one thing has followed as a result of another thing 1. The causes attributed to particular behaviours will influence subsequent emotional and nonemotional behaviours o The attributions we make, then, may activate other motives ATTRIBUTION THEORY 1: Heider's Naïve Psychology • The origin of attribution theory is properly attributed to Fitz Heider • He chose the term naïve to emphasize the point of his interest - how the average person, who is presumably naïve about how behaviours are objectively determined, decides what are the causes of behaviour • Logically one could attribute behaviours either to forces within the individual (dispositions) or to forces external to the individual (situational factors) • Attribution Choice Point: o Dispositional (internal) attribution 1. Abilities 2. Motivations a. Intention: the cognitive plan to behave in a particular way MOTIVATION CHAPTER 10 page 1 b. Exertion: the amount of effort that one is willing to put into behaviour o Situational (external) attribution 1. Task difficulty 2. Luck • Heider believed that we tend to attribute behaviour to dispositional as opposed to situational o Attribution rules are biased toward personal causation • Fundamental attribution error: the tendency to attribute behaviour to stable, internal characteristics • Crandall contend that our desire for balance can motivate us to make certain attributions rather than others • In addition, attributions can motivate behaviour that maintains balance • Thus, attributions that maintain balance can be both a cause and a consequence of behaviour • A major problem with Heider's approach was that it did not generate specific hypotheses that were easily testable in the laboratory • His theory was a general framework that left the specific determinants of attributions unspecified ATTRIBUTION THEORY 2: The Jones and Davis Correspondent Inference Theory • Jones and Davis agreed with Heider that dispositional attributions are more frequent than situational ones • They expended his approach in an attempt to make the components of dispositional attributions more specific • They believed, people observe a behaviour and then make an inference about the intent of the behaviour • In making an attribution, we look for a correspondence between the observed behaviour, the inferred intent of that behaviour, and a person's disposition • The person's behaviour must reflect some degree of choice o If a person has little or no choice, we are likely to attribute their behaviour to the situation • Experiment: freely chosen behaviours lead to dispositional attributions o Undergraduate participant read an essay that critiqued the way Fidel Castro, who was the prime minister of Cuba was leading the country o The essay was either pro-Castro or anti-Castro in tone o A second variable that was manipulated was whether instructions to the exam question required the fictitious student to take either the pro- or anti-Castro position (ex. The No-Choice condition) or if the student was allowed to choose which position to take (ex. The Choice condition) o After reading the essay, participants were asked to estimate the student's true attitude toward Castro on a 10-item scale o Results: participants were more likely to assume that the essay reflected the student's true attitude when the student could choose which essay to write, and thus would be more likely to make a dispositional attribution in the two Choice conditions [this supported the researcher's predictions] MOTIVATION CHAPTER 10 page 2 o Students who read the anti-Castro essay perceived that the student held a negative view, especially in the Choice condition o This pattern was reversed in the pro-castro condition o Thus, participants were more likely to make dispositional attributions when they believed the student chose to engage in the behaviour willingly •Jones and Davis believe that three factors are considered in our attribution decision : 1. Choice - If a person has little or no choice, we are likely to attribute their behaviour to the situation 2. Social desirability - a socially desirable behaviour is one that is approved of and performed by most people) • Social desirability is common, so they don’t tell us much about a person's disposition as do less socially desirable behaviours 3. Noncommon effects - some parts of an observed behaviour will be unique, and it is these unique aspects that allow us to make our attributions • Noncommon effects tell us more about the actor's intention, which then allows us to make a corresponding reference about their disposition •Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people. What could have motivated him to do so? •If we apply the correspondent inference theory of Jones and Davis, we could consider several factors, all of which pointing to a dispositional attribution (X) ATTRIBUTION THEORY 3: Keylley's Covariation Theory •Kelley believed that we have a need to control the environment in which we interact •To gain control, we must first gather information and determine what is causing particular changes to occur •Major principle used in Kelley's attribution process is covariation o Covariation (or correlation) across time is an important way in which we are able to make a judgement about causality •There is three dimensions used to decide what type of attribution we must make: o Distinctiveness - refers to the degree to which the behaviour is unique o Consensus - means that we examine other people's behaviour in the same situation o Consistency - refers to the frequency with which the actor engages in the specific behaviour in question •Kelley's three dimensions has two possible outcomes (high or low), there are 2X2X2=8 different possible scenarios involving the combinations of each three dimension •Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people. What could have motivated him to do so? •If we apply Kelley's attribution theory, we that although his behaviour is extreme, it is low in distinctiveness, and high in consistency •All these three ATTRIBUTION THEORIES mentioned so far focus on the assumptions that: 1. We do attempt to determine the causes of behaviour 2. We do this based on a series of rules MOTIVATION CHAPTER 10 page 3 (X) Weiner's Attributional Analysis of Achievement Behaviour • He developed an attributional theory that was initially used to explain achievement motivation, but later the theory was applied to a broader range of topics • Attributions that we make when attempting to explain past successes and emotions, expectancies of future success/failure, and subsequent behaviour • He argued that at least four elements are important in our interpretation of the outcome of an achievement-related event: 1. Ability - internal, stable, uncontrollable 2. Effort- internal, unstable, controllable 3. Task difficulty - external, stable, uncontrollable 4. Luck - external, unstable, uncontrollable • Our influences about our abilities are not judged in a vacuum but in relation to the performance of others, a process known as social comparison 1. If we succeed at a task in which others fail, we are likely to perceive ourselves as capable individuals • The four elements differ in three causal dimensions: 1. Locus - whether the cause is internal (ability & effort) or external (situational- task difficulty & luck) to the individual 2. Stability - refers to the likelihood that the cause can be altered in the future (no change - stable; change - unstable) 3. Controllability - some causes are controllable and some are uncontrollable by one's self or by others PAGE 312 FIGURE 10.4 • Attribution Independent: the outcome itself triggers happiness or sadness depending on whether the person succeeded or failed • Attribution Dependent: the outcome determined by the salient causal dimensions which are in turn the result of the attribution • Experiment by Weiner on the relationship between affect, outcomes, and attributions (p. 312-313) o Presented participants with a brief story concerning success or failure that also contained the reason for the positive or negative outcomes o Participants were asked to indicate the emotional reaction of the individual in the story by selecting emotionally toned words from a list o Result: some words reappeared in all of the 10 stories of success; These were attribution independent emotions such as pleased and happy MOTIVATION CHAPTER 10 page 4 •One may feel confident and pleased while feeling surprised and astonished when success is attributed to luck •Likewise, failure does not always lead to feelings of shame •Weiner argued that the attribution and the associated attribution-dependent affect will influence our expectancies of future success and subsequent motivation •Failure attributed to lack of effort = induce guilt and increased motivation due to the expectation that greater effort will lead to future success •Failure attributed to lack of ability = result in shame, hopelessness, and lack of motivation •Weiner incorporated the elements, causal dimensions, emotions, and expectancies into his broader attribution theory of achievement motivation, and abbreviated version of which is depicted in Fig 10.5 PAGE 314 FIGURE 10.5 Biases In Attribution 1. The Self-Serving Bias: o The tendency to take credit for success and to avoid responsibility for failure o Ex. Teachers whose students performed well attributed the outcome to their teaching ability (disposition); those whose students performed poorly attributed the result to shortcomings of the students (situation) o Been documented in both Western and Non-Western cultures o Melzulis conducted a meta-analysis of 200 studies and found an overall effect size that was very large, indicating that the self-serving bias is both persuasive and strong o This bias exists in all age groups, but highest in childhood and late adulthood o Why this occurs? a. MOTIVATIONAL FACTORS: Motives of self-assessment and self- enhancement - we are motivated to accurately assess our abilities but we are motivated to maintain a positive self-image b. COGNITIVE FACTORS: Cognitive "information processing" errors may also be a reason o Unbiased attributions require conscious effort and biased attributions are more reflexive o Possible consequences of self-serving bias: a. Chronically denying responsibility for one's failures can protect one's self image, but it can also lead to
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