The Attribution Theory is the theory which argues that people look for explanation of behavior, associating either dispositional attributes or situational attributes. It pertains to how individuals interpret events and how this relates to their thinking and behavior, and assumes that people attempt to determine why people do what they do, for example, attribute causes to behavior. Students often question why failure or success has occurred so that success can be achieved in the next academic situation.
Fritz Heider, a professor at the University of Kansas, initially developed the theory of attribution. He said that attribution is the process of drawing inferences and making inferences that can be compared to an “educated guess.” He realized that within personal interaction, we base judgments on more than sensory information and make inferences based on a person’s actions. Heider believed that the attribution theory is a three step process in which people have perceptions of actions, a judgment of intention, and an attribution disposition. Bernard Weiner created the framework we use today in terms of achievement. According to him most of the causes to which students attribute their successes or failures can be characterized in terms of three dimensions: locus (location on the cause internal or external to the person), stability (whether the cause stays the same or can change), and responsibility (whether the person can control the cause).
There has been a plethora of evidence and research to support how attribution theory can affect individuals’ perception of themselves. Some researchers believe that programs that attempt to have individuals realize that their failure is because of lack of effort instead of low ability are necessary (Weiner, 1992). When students can attribute outcomes to their causes, cause and effect, it is easier to reduce the stress associated with uncertainty and understand themselves better.
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