Describe the Role of Situational and Dispositional Factors in Explaining Behavior

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Describe the Role of Situational and Dispositional Factors in Explaining Behavior

Sophie Landesmann

The roles of situational and dispositional factors both play an important role in behavior. A significant term that one has to take in account is attribution, which is how people interpret and explain casual relationships in the social world. Humans have the need to know why things actually happen. Situational factors have something to do with external factors. When people speak about their own personal behavior they tend to attribute it to situational factors. Dispositional factors on the other hand have something to do with internal factors. When people observe the way other ones behave, they tend to ascribe it to dispositional factors. People use dispositional factors all the time for example, when a person is waiting for someone to meet them and they don’t arrive on time they think about different reasons why the person could be late and the behavior could be attributed to dispositional factors. The Theory of Attribution argues that people are more likely to explain a person’s actions by pointing to dispositional factors, rather than to the actual situation. When people overestimate the role of dispositional factors in a person’s behavior and underestimate the situational factors it is called the fundamental attribution error. People gather information by observing others, which can often lead to making unreasonable conclusions. For example, after watching several movies with Tom Cruise one might think that he is a hero and not afraid of anything, which would be dispositional, and not to the fact that he is only playing a role in these movies, which would be situational.

Psychologists often wonder why people make unreasonable conclusions like this and argue that it is, because people tend to think of themselves as adaptable and ever-changing human beings. When people look at others, they are not able to make a balanced...
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