Describe Dispositional and Situational Factors in Explaining Behavior

Topics: Stanford prison experiment, Scientific method, Theory Pages: 1 (301 words) Published: October 10, 2012
Describe the role of situational and dispositional factors in explaining behavior Both situation and dispositional factors play a significant role in people explaining behavior. (in that they guide the judgment on both our actions and people’s actions.) Attribution theory, known as how people interpret and explain behavior in the social world, is closely related to these two factors. People tend to attribute behavior depending on their roles as actors or observers, known as the actor-observer effect. Milgram’s study (1963) investigated the role of situation and dispositional factors in participants explaining their own behavior. Nine out of twelve participants completed the task under the researcher’s authoritative guidance. The participants considered the task unethical so they attributed their negative behavior to the researcher’s guidance instead of the dispositional factor, such as their personality. When people explain their own behavior, they tend to attribute it to situation factors such as the interference from the authority. Zimbardo et al (1973) conducted an experiment in Stanford’s prison to investigate the role of actor-observer effect. Participants were assigned with either the role of prisoners or the role of guards. In the experiment, both the guards and prisoners were very dedicated into their acting roles. Most of the prisoners obeyed the guards because the guards imposed violent behavior to the prisoners. It is found that the prisoners believed and attributed the guard’s violent behavior to the guard’s dispositional factor. When people observe other’s behavior, they usually attribute it to dispositional factor such as personality. Therefore, with the knowledge of the prison as a simulation, the prisoners still obeyed the guards like they were real guards who always acted violently. People usually attribute their behavior to situational factors when they perform the behavior. Whereas, people attribute others’ behavior to dispositional factor...
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