Attribution Theory Definition

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  • Topic: Attribution theory, Causality, Covariation model
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  • Published : December 1, 2012
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Attribution Theory Definition

Attribution theory is concerned with how people interpret events and relate them to their thinking and behavior. It's a cognitive perception which affects their motivation. This theory was first proposed in a book called, The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations by Fritz Heider in 1958. According to Heider, men behave as amateur scientists in social situations. He also said that, we generally explain behavior in two ways; either we attribute the behavior to a person or a situation. Attribution literally means a grant of responsibility. Albeit, the theory was first proposed by Heider (1958), later Edward E. Jones (1972) and Harold Kelley (1967) developed a theoretical structure, which is now seen as an epitome of social psychology.

The theory divides the behavior attributes into two parts, external or internal factors.

Internal attribution: When an internal attribution is made, the cause of the given behavior is within the person, i.e. the variables which make a person responsible like attitude, aptitude, character and personality.

External attribution: When an external attribution is made, the cause of the given behavior is assigned to the situation in which the behavior was seen. The person responsible for the behavior may assign the causality to the environment or weather.

In 1967, Kelley tried to explain the way people perceive internal and external attribution. He tried this, postulating the principle of co-variation. This model was known as Covariation Model. The basic principle of the covariation model states that the effect is attributed to one of the causes which co-varies over time. It also means that the behavior at various occasions varies. The covariation model considers three major types of information to make an attribution decision and to observe a person's behavior. The three types of information are:

Consensus information: This responds to the fact, how people with similar stimuli behave in similar...
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