The process by which persons interpret and pinpoint causes for their own personal and other’s behaviour is the theory of attribution.1 In this motivational theory, a person always finds a way to explain things, he make inferences on why things or events occur. After explaining the events a person then predicts future events through his inferences. He wants to understand the reasons or causes behind behaviour of people and why events happen. It was first proposed by Fritz Heider in 1958 and further developed by Harold Kelly and Bernard Weiner.
Internal vs. External Attributions
Every person observe and analyze things differently thus having different ways of explaining things. The attribution theory proposes that when people observe and analyze things they try to find out whether it is caused internally or externally.2 Attribution is a three-stage process: (1) Observation of an individual behaviour, (2) Determination whether the behaviour is intentional and (3) Attribution of the observed behaviour to internal or external factors.3 Those that are believed that can be personally controlled are called internal attributions while those believed to be caused by outside forces are external attributions.2 Example of internal attributions are ability, personality, mood, efforts, attitudes or disposition while external attributions are task, other people and luck.4 Following is an example of an application of this theory is when an employee failed to perform in a given task, a manager tries to explain why this thing happened. He may attribute this failure to poor efforts made by his subordinate (internal attribute) or he may consider that the given task maybe be too difficult for his employee (external attribute).
Consistency, Distinctiveness and Consensus
On the other hand, when making a determination between internal and external causes of behaviour, three factors must be considered: (1) consistency, (2) distinctiveness and
References: 1. Newstrom, John W. And Keith Davis. 2002. Organizational Behavior: Human Behavior at Work(11th Edition). The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2. Robbins, Stephen P. 2000. Organizational Behavior, International Edition, Pearson Educatioon Asia Pte Ltd. 3. Simmering, Marcia J. Attribution Theory. http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/management/A-Bud/Attribution-Theory.html Date Accessed: July 7, 2011 4. Attribution (psychology). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attribution_theory Date Accessed: July 7, 2011