Errors in Attribution
It is human nature for us to think about other people’s actions and intentions and then process what they mean. In this way, we form attributions, which help us understand others’ purposes and objectives. There are two main types of attributions. The first is dispositional attribution, which are assumptions that are made based on someone’s behaviour where a person assumes the behaviour is caused by someone’s personality or character. The second type is a situational attribution, which is an assumption that takes into the account a situation the other person was in at the time. However, there can also be errors in the way that we process that information. The error that will be explored in this paper is the correspondence bias, which is also known as the fundamental attribution error, since it is made so often. There are four causes of correspondence bias; firstly, observers are often unaware of the situational factors, so they cannot adjust their primary impressions. Secondly, we often have expectations of behaviour of others that cause us to rely on dispositional attributions. Another cause is that even if situational factors are brought into the equation, our primary impression that led to the dispositional attributes is not adjusted satisfactorily. The last reason is that we often have unrealistic expectations of how people will respond to a situation; they imagine that they themselves would not make the same choices if they were in that situation, though this is often untrue. The correspondence bias occurs when people attribute dispositional factors instead of attributing situational ones. The following four experiments, although conducted almost four decades apart, both explore the correspondence bias and when and why people make it. All experiments’ results were measured on Likert-scales, which is a like a survey that scale that rates and quantifies feelings. Based on these scales and the statistics formed in the experiments the researchers found that majority of the time, subjects made correspondence biases, despite knowing circumstances the target people (authors of speeches or essays) were in. Edward Jones and Victor Harris of Duke University conducted the following three experiments about correspondence bias in 1965. The subjects were instructed to estimate the views of a person after reading their opinion on a controversial topic. In the case of the first two experiments, the topic chosen was Fidel Castro and opinions, expressed in essays or speeches, for or against him. At that time in America, the government, and therefore most people, held an Anti-Castro view. There were four different categories: Choice, Pro-Castro; Choice, Anti-Castro; No-Choice, Pro-Castro, and No-Choice Anti-Castro. Subjects were told that the essays or speeches they would read were either the target person’s own view (choice), or an instructed stance on the subject (no-choice). In this choice option, the people who wrote the speech or essay had a choice on whether or not they would take a Pro- or Anti- Castro stance. In the no-choice option, the subjects were told that the people who wrote the speech did NOT have a choice on whether they were Pro- or Anti- Castro; the topic was assigned. However, these were told to the subjects to produce a certain outcome for the experiment, and all essays were written not by college students, but by researchers. Also, most of the subjects themselves had an anti-Castro view. In the 3rd experiment the topic was on segregation, the separation of people into racial groups, with different statuses in society. The experiment was based on Pro and anti-segregation which is the separation of black and white people in America, the reason for America’s civil war, from 1861-1865. This is a big controversial matter and the usual sides taken in this matter is between Northern and Southern America, where as the North is against segregation and the South is for segregation. The independent...
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