What is Attribution in Social Psychology? And Its Types?

In social psychology, attribution remains understood as the process of inferring the causes of events or behaviors. In everyday life, attribution is something that we all do daily, usually unaware of the underlying processes and biases that lead to our inferences.

For example, on a typical day, we are likely to make many attributions about our behavior and those around us.

When we get a reduced grade on a test, we are likely to blame the teacher for not properly explaining the contents to us, completely ruling out that we did not study for the exam. If a study partner got an excellent grade instead, we are likely to attribute their good performance to luck and ignore good study habits.

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Why do we make Internal Attributions in our case when we do External Attributions for others?

Part of the reaction has to do with the type of attribution we are prone to use in particular situations. Cognitive biases often play a role as well.

What Impact do Attributions have on our everyday behavior?

The attributions that we carry out daily have an essential influence on our feelings, as well as on the way we think and relate to other people.

Attribution Types

Interpersonal Attribution

Once telling a story to a set of friends or acquaintances, we are most likely telling the story in a way that gives us a position that favors us.

Predictive attribution

we also usually make attributions of circumstances in a way that allows us to make future predictions, so if our car remained looted, we might attribute this criminal act to the that we park in a particular place, as a consequence, in the future, we will avoid that parking spot to prevent the event from repeating itself.

Explanatory Attribution

We make explanatory attributions to help us make sense of the world around us. Some people may have a lively descriptive style, while others have a more pessimistic outlook.
People who have an optimistic style attribute festive events to stable, internal, and global causes and adverse events to unstable, external, and specific reasons.

On the contrary, people with a pessimistic style attribute adverse events to internal, stable, global causes, and festive events to external, regular, and specific reasons.

Heider’s “Common Sense” Theory

In his 1958 hardcover, The Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships, Fritz Heider suggested that people observe others to analyze their behavior and infer their common-sense explanations for their actions. Heider’s team differentiated between external and internal attributions.

The external attributions are given to situational forces, while internal attributions point to individual characteristics and traits.

The Corresponding Interference Theory

In 1965, Edward Jones and Keith Davis recommended that people make inferences about others when they are intentional rather than accidental. When people observe that others act in a certain way, they look for a correspondence between that individual’s motives and their behaviors.

The inferences that people then make remain based on the degree of choice, the probability of the behavior was occurring, and their effects on the action.

Attributional Errors and Biases

Self-Interest Bias

When it comes to further people, we tend to attribute the causes to internal factors such as personality traits and ignore or minimize external variables. This phenomenon tends to be very generalized, particularly in individualistic cultures.

Psychologists refer to this tendency as a fundamental attribution error; Although situational factors are likely to be present, we automatically attribute the cause to internal characteristics.

The fundamental mistake is to blame others for circumstances or events over which they generally have no control.

Social psychologists frequently use the term blaming the victim for describing a phenomenon in which the individual blames innocent victims for the crimes they remain subjected to.

For example, people may accuse the victim of not protecting themselves from the event, not behaving in a certain way. Or not taking specific precautionary measures to avoid or prevent the occurrence.

Thus, it is frequent that rape victims, survivors of domestic violence. Or kidnapping victims are re-victimized for behaving in a certain way. Or that in some way provoked their attackers.

The researchers suggest hindsight bias makes perception difficult. Since people mistakenly believe that victims should have predicted future events and have taken steps to sidestep them.

The Actor-Observer Bias

Interestingly, when explaining our behavior, we tend to make a mistake with a fundamentally opposite attribution bias. In other words, we are more likely to blame external forces than our characteristics. Which has been termed the actor-observer bias.

One possible reason why this phenomenon occurs is that we have more information about our situation than others. When explaining our actions, we have more information about ourselves and the situational variables at stake.

However, when it comes to explaining another person’s behavior. We are at a disadvantage, we have insufficient information, and we only have that which is readily observable.

It is not surprising that people easily fall into the actor-observer bias when making attributions concerning strangers. Because we know more about our circumstances and those around us. So we can perceive their point of view than those we do not know.

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