By Paula Lewis U0044332
Social psychologists interested in social perception and cognition have an ‘intuitive scientist’ model of how people understand their worlds – people seek ‘truths’ in a logical and rational way (as cited in Buchanan et al, 2007, p.106). They suggest that in order for people to have a sense of control over their social interactions, they make inferences and assumptions about people’s behaviour and events that they encounter. This concept falls under the ‘attribution theory’ umbrella, which means; assigning cause to our own or other peoples behaviour. Fritz Heider (cited in Buchanan et al, 2007) was the first to propose a psychological theory of attribution. Heider discussed what he called “naïve” or “commonsense” psychology. In his view, people were like amateur scientists, trying to understand other people’s behaviour by piecing together information until they arrived at a reasonable explanation or cause. However, there is also evidence that suggests that this is not the case and that people do not always behave in ‘rational’ or ‘objective’ ways as expected. This essay therefore aims to evaluate both sides of the argument whilst concluding whether the ‘lay scientist’ view is realistic or not.
Attribution theory is concerned with how individuals interpret events and how this relates to their thinking and behaviour. Attribution theory assumes that people try to determine why people do what they do. When we (the observer) try to understand why another person (the actor) did something, we can either attribute one or more causes to that behaviour, internal/dispositional -the inference that a person is behaving in a certain way because of something about the person, such as attitude, character or personality. Or; external/situational - the inference that a person is
References: Buchanan et al .(2007). Understanding the social world. In D. Miell, A. Phoenix, & K. Thomas (Eds), Mapping Psychology (2nd ed., pp.57-109). Milton Keynes: The Open University.