Errors in Attribution

Topics: Attribution theory, Attributional bias, Social psychology Pages: 4 (1404 words) Published: October 18, 2010
Discuss two errors in attributions

Attribution bias is the illogical reasoning behind people’s decisions about one’s own and others’ behaviour by giving objective views on situations, it is essentially faults in a process of elucidation and can lead to errors in interpretation of our own and other’s behaviour because: a) People are ‘cognitive misers’ – we do not examine all the evidence provided or we take mental shortcuts (linking to social cognition) to reach a conclusion, leading to wrong assumptions, and b) Insufficient information is available or some of the information available is more significantly portrayed than others. There are two types of attribution biases. The first is dispositional, which blames personal characteristics, and the second is situational, which blames the situation itself.

An example of an attributional bias is the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error (FAE) is an error in which people tend to overestimate internal, dispositional factors (blaming personal characteristics) and underestimate external, situational factors (blaming the situation itself) even if there could be equally convincing evidence on both sides. This increases the personal relevance to the witness due to the increase in blaming dispositional factors and holding the person and their characteristics responsible for causes. An example of the fundamental attribution error is a car crash: the witness would overestimate the dispositional factors by blaming the accident on the drivers speeding, and underestimate the situational factors, such as there being an icy or wet road, which led to a lack of control when breaking. The reason for the fundamental attribution error is because the observer is more likely to notice the person’s faults rather than the environment. Also, it could be that the observer feels more in control of the situation as they have the chance to predict and decide who is to blame for an incident.

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