Attribution and Interpersonal Perception

Topics: Attribution theory, Fundamental attribution error, Causality Pages: 5 (1658 words) Published: May 5, 2010
Attribution and Interpersonal Perception

It is said that we often attribute our own and others' behaviour to personal dispositions when the behaviour was in fact caused by the situation. Why and when is this so? Refer to the function of attributions; attribution errors; interpersonal perceptions and interactions. You may use personal examples to illustrate these biases.

1 Background 2
2 Introduction 2
3 Attributional Theories 2
3.1 Correspondent Inference 3
3.2 Causal Attributions 3
3.3 Behaviour as a function of Disposition or Situation 4
3.4 Augmenting and Discounting 5
4 Attributional Sources of error: 5
4.1 Correspondence Bias: Overestimating the Role of Dispositional causes. 6 4.1.1 Wanting Dispositions 7
4.1.2 Misunderstanding Situations 7
4.1.3 Misperceiving Behaviour 9
4.1.4 Failing to Use Information 9
4.2 The Actor- Observer Effect: “You fell; I was pushed.” 10 4.3 The Self-Serving Bias: “I’m Good; You are Lucky.” 11 4.4 Cognitive and Motivational Bases for Explanations 11
4.5 Interpersonal Perception as a source of mistaken attributions: 11 4.5.1 Matching Reactions 12
4.5.2 Providing Opportunities 14
4.5.3 Setting Norms 15
4.5.4 Perceived-Induced Constraints 15
5 Attribution applied to Groups 17
5.1 Cultural Issues in Intergroup Attributions 18
5 Conclusion: 19
6 References: 19

1 Background
Through attribution we attempt to understand the causes behind others' behaviour. Because we cannot "see" their covert feelings, reasons and intentions, we have to infer them from what we can "see"-- their overt behaviour. We make our attributions about ourselves in much the same way. Often our own emotions, attitudes, traits, and abilities are unclear and ambiguous to us. (Why did I overreact?) In self-perception, as in our perception of others, we search for plausible causes of our behaviour. If we are aware of strong external factors pushing us, we are likely to make situational attributions. But when there are no clear external forces we are likely to make dispositional attributions. This distinction between situational and dispositional causes of behaviour is fundamental to all attribution theories. Many discussions of casual attribution seem to suggest that attribution is a highly rational, logical and objective process. This is not always the case -- often our attributions are subject to biases that lead us to incorrect conclusions regarding the reasons behind others' (and our own) behaviour. Attributions cannot tell us why a person behaved in a certain way. That is not their function. Rather their function is to describe the psychological operations that underlie such attributions. The prescribed literature for this assignment contributes to an understanding of these psychological operations.

2 Introduction
Attribution is defined as the process through which we seek to identify the causes of others’ behaviour and so gain knowledge of their stable traits and dispositions (Baron, R.A., Byrne, D. & Branscombe 2006). From this definition it can be seen that with attribution we want to understand “why” or the underlying “cause” of the behaviour. There are a number of theories that have been proposed to explain the operation of attribution.

3 Attributional Theories
In order to understand the why or the cause the following theories provide possible explanation. 3.1 Correspondent Inference
Jones and Davis’s (1965) theory of correspondent inference- asks how we use information about others’ behaviour as a basis for inferring that they possess various traits (Baron, R.A., Byrne, D. & Branscombe 2006). This theory is concerned with how we decide, on the basis of others’ overt actions, that they posses’ specific trait or dispositions likely to remain fairly stable over time (Baron, R.A., Byrne, D. & Branscombe 2006). However, people often act in certain ways not because doing so reflects their own preferences or traits, but rather because of external factors. Therefore in order to determine...


References: 3.1 Correspondent Inference
Jones and Davis’s (1965) theory of correspondent inference- asks how we use information about others’ behaviour as a basis for inferring that they possess various traits (Baron, R.A., Byrne, D
3.2 Causal Attributions
According to Kelly (1980) (as cited by Baron, R.A., Byrne, D
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