The concept of attribution exists in social psychology. Attribution means how the origins of behaviors and events are explained by an individual. Attribution also refers to how people make inferences about the possible sources of an event or behaviors. Attributions are made by people so that it becomes convenient for them to comprehend their own experiences. The ways of interacting with other people are highly influenced by these attributions.
Theory of attribution works as a shed for different theories which try to provide the explanation for these processes. The psychology of interpersonal relationships is a theory of attribution which was first presented by Fritz Heider in 1958. Bernard Weiner and Harold Kelley further extended this theory.
Types of Attribution
The types of attribution have been classified by the researchers in two dimensions. One is internal vs external attributions and the other one is stable vs unstable attribution. When these dimensions of attribution are combined with each other it becomes easier for researchers to categorize some specific attributions as if they are internal-stable, internal-unstable, external-stable, or external-unstable.
Internal vs. External
The theory of attribution states that those attributions which are made by people regarding an event or behaviors are classified as either internal or external. People think that the behavior of an individual or an event is caused by his personal attributes such as his personality characteristics, his feelings and his skill set. This is known as internal or dispositional attribution. While, external or situational attribution refers to people inferring that the behavior of a person or an event is caused by external circumstances.
Stable vs Unstable
Stable and unstable attributions have also been distinguished by researchers. When a stable attribution is made by a person, he thinks that the behavior of a person or an event is caused by stable factors which cannot be changed. While, when a person makes an unstable attribution, he thinks that the behavior of a person or an event is caused by unstable factors which are temporary.
The concept of dispositional attribution is not understood properly in personality psychology which is considered as to provide the explanation for the behavior of humans at an individual level. It is widely argued that its causes are the internal attributes which are found inside an individual in contrast to outside factors which arise from the culture or the environment in which an individual lives. Internal attribution is also a term which is used for dispositional attribution or to understand that personal characteristics of an individual stem from a particular environment or behavior.
The meaning of attribution is that the assumptions one creates about the possible causes of behavior or event and also the try to understand to get an understanding of the behavior and experiences of other people around. When a person tries to assume through internal attribution he infers that a particular behavior of an individual or the occurrence of an event is caused by the circumstances which are related to that individual. Internal attribution is referred to as putting the blame on a certain type of criteria or criterias which might be under the control of a person to give rise to a particular incident. While creating the internal attribution a person thinks of the events or behavior of an individual which is related to personal attributes, capabilities or thoughts. An example of internal attribution would be when a person is making payment for what he purchased at a grocery store and the person at the cash counter misbehaves with him there and the person inferes that he also should misbehave with everyone every time. Internal attribution can be understood by the fact that how a person attaches meanings to the behaviors demonstrated by other people.
Dispositional vs Situational Attribution
When a behavior is caused by the internal factors of a person such as, his traits, skills and feelings instead of external factors is known as dispositional attribution. While, when a person inferred that a particular behavior demonstrated by an individual is due external factors which are not in control of that person instead of internal factors this is situational attribution.
In dispositional attribution, when a person attempts to provide explanation for the behavior of other people he is finding the durable internal attribution of dispositional attribution. For example someone attributes the behaviors demonstrated by others with their personalities, beliefs and motives. This is referred to as basic attribution error.
On the other hand, when a person attempts to provide an explanation for his own behavior he is making external attribution such as external or environment factors.
Cognitive biases which are referred to as the mistakes committed while an individual try to evaluate or look for the reason for the behaviors of himself and other people as well. This is known as attribution bias. People keep on making the attributions with reference to the root causes of the behavior of their own and other people. But, the reality is not always reflected by the attributions people make. Instead of being subjective in their perceptions people are more vulnerable to committing perceptual mistakes which often result in inferring biased explanations of their social environment.
We can see attribution biases in our daily lives. Take an example of a driver who overtakes a car dangerously he will most probably be labeled as a reckless driver. This is dispositional attribution as he is being inferred as reckless without considering any external factors such there was rush and he didn’t notice the other car. Moreover, a lot of attribution of various types are there such as, fundamental attribution error, ultimate attribution error, hostile attribution bias and actor-observer bias. All these biases explain a particular aspect which is demonstrated by people while giving reasons regarding the cause of various behaviors.
Jones & Davis Correspondent Inference Theory
Theory presented by Jones and Davis is helpful in understanding how internal or dispositional attribution are made. According to them we incline to do this when there is similarity between rationale and behavior. For instance, when a person sees a similarity among a friendly behavior of a person in a friendly way and being a friendly person.
The information which is helpful for a person to predict the behavior of a person is provided to him by dispositional attribution or internal attribution. This theory explains those circumstances in which a person tends to create dispositional attribution towards a behavior he thinks as anticipated.
The term correspondent Inference was used by Davis in order to point towards an event in which a person thinks that the behavior of a person is similar to his personality. This is an alternative of dispositional attribution.
So, what actually makes a person to draw correspondent Inference. Jones and Davis stated that a person draws on five resources of information.
- Choice: when a person chooses a behavior independently then it can be considered that it is caused by internal factors.
- Accidental vs. Intentional Behavior: An intentionally performed behavior will be attached with the personality of a person and an accidental behavior will be attached to the external factors.
- Social Desirability: Those behaviors in which there is a lower social desirability makes a person to draw internal or dispositional inferences more than those behaviors which are socially undesirable.
- Hedonistic Relevance: when the behavior of a person seems to harm us or benefit us directly.
- Personalism: when the behavior of another person seems to impact us, we infer it as personal and which is not a result of the situation.
Kelley’s Covariation Model
The 1967 covariation model presented by Kelley is a well known attribution model. He presented a model which is based on logic in order to judge if a specific action can be associated with some dispositional characteristics or to the environment of a person.
The simple meaning of covariation is an individual has collected information by his observation in different situations and different times and is able to discern the covariations of observed effects and their causes.
He explained that people start acting like scientists when they try to discover the causes of a behavior. In more specific terms people tend to consider three types of evidence.
- Consensus: a portion to which an individual demonstrates a behavior in similar style in the same situation. For example, Jerry tends to smoke when he is having a meal out with friends. If his friends also smoke the behavior of Jerry is in consensus. If no one smokes except Jerry then it is low.
- Distinctiveness: when a person shows behavior in the same style in the same situation. If Jerry tend tk to some only when he is with his friend, his behavior is considered as high in distinctiveness. If Jerry tends to smoke at any place or any time then distinctiveness is low.
- Consistency: when a person shows a similar behavior all the time when a situation comes. If Jerry tends to smoke only when he is with his friend then consistency is high. If Jerry tends to smoke on some particular events then consistency will be low.
To understand this theory attribution let’s have an example. A person named Alison’s behavior is laughter. She is laughing at a comedian.
If all the audiences are laughing at comedians then consequences will be high but if Allison alon laughs at comedians then the consensus is low.
When Allison laughs alone at a comedian then the distinctiveness is higher but if Allison tends to laugh at everything then distinctiveness will be lower.
If Allison always tends to laugh at this comedian then the consistency will be higher. But, if Allison tends to laugh occasionally at the comedian then the consistency will be lower.
FAQs about Dispositional Attribution
Q1. What is attribution?
Attribution means how the origins of behaviors and events are explained by an individual.
Q2. What is dispositional attribution?
When a behavior is caused by the internal factors of a person such as, his traits, skills and feelings instead of external factors is known as dispositional attribution.
Q3. What is situational attribution?
When a person inferred that a particular behavior demonstrated by an individual is due external factors which are not in control of that person instead of internal factors this is situational attribution.
Q4 . What is attribution bias?
Cognitive biases which are referred to as the mistakes committed while an individual try to evaluate or look for the reason for the behaviors of himself and other people as well. This is known as attribution bias.
Q5. What is John and Davis correspondent Inference theory?
According to John and Davis we incline to make dispositional attribution when there is similarity between rationale and behavior.
Q6. What is Kelley’s Covariation Model?
Kelley’s Model is based on logic in order to judge if a specific action can be associated with some dispositional characteristics or to the environment of a person.