Explaining human behavior.
History and Orientation
Heider (1958) was the first to propose a psychological theory of attribution, but Weiner and colleagues (e.g., Jones et al, 1972; Weiner, 1974, 1986) developed a theoretical framework that has become a major research paradigm of social psychology. Heider discussed what he called “naïve” or “commonsense” psychology. In his view, people were like amateur scientists, trying to understand other people’s behavior by piecing together information until they arrived at a reasonable explanation or cause.
Core Assumptions and Statements
Attribution theory is concerned with how individuals interpret events and how this relates to their thinking and behavior. Attribution theory assumes that people try to determine why people do what they do. A person seeking to understand why another person did something may attribute one or more causes to that behavior. According to Heider a person can make two attributions 1) internal attribution, the inference that a person is behaving in a certain way because of something about the person, such as attitude, character or personality. 2) external attribution, the inference that a person is behaving a certain way because of something about the situation he or she is in.
Our attributions are also significantly driven by our emotional and motivational drives. Blaming other people and avoiding personal recrimination are very real self-serving attributions. We will also make attributions to defend what we perceive as attacks. We will point to injustice in an unfair world. We will even tend to blame victims (of us and of others) for their fate as we seek to distance ourselves from thoughts of suffering the same plight. We will also tend to ascribe less variability to other people than ourselves, seeing ourselves as more multifaceted and less predictable than others. This may well because we can see more of what is inside ourselves (and spend more time doing this).... [continues]
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