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Flashcards in SCLOA - discuss 2 attribution errors Deck (23):

fundamental attribution error

- coined by Ross (1977)
- refers to the biased tendency to explain other people’s behaviour as due to stable dispositional factors
- rather than situational factors
- the more serious the consequences of the behaviour, the more likely we are to attribute it to disposition

Main studies:
- Ross et al. (1977)
- Jones and Harris (1967)


why does FAE occur?

- humans are social animals
- so they're more likely to focus on other beings rather than the environment
- assuming that behaviour is caused by personality gives the impression that people are predictable -- and we derive comfort from this

- with regard to semantics, the words used makes it easier to focus on people rather than situations
- when talking of 'aggression', one assumes it refers to behaviour or a person rather than a situation
- this assumption is an example of linguistic FAE


Ross et al. (1977) - Process

- set up a mock quiz
- randomly assigned college students to be either 'questioners' (i.e. create questions based on their own knowledge of a subject) or 'answerers'
- asked everyone taking part to rate the 2 groups
- control: a group of observers were also asked to rate the groups


Ross et al. (1977) - Findings and Conclusion

- 'questioners' were typically rated as having better general knowledge than 'answerers'
- by both the answerers and observers
- despite not actually answering any questions themselves
- observers paid no attention to the fact that it was a mock quiz
- instead chose to assume that the behaviour reflected a dispositional factor (that questioners had more general knowledge)


Ross et al. (1977) - Evaluation

- sophisticated methodology
- questioners could make up their own questions; this was known by all participants
- sampling bias: all participants were university students
- low ecological validity


Jones and Harris (1967) - Process

- participants read essays about Fidel Castro's rule in Cuba by fellow students
- essays took a stance (supportive/critical) on Fidel Castro
- participants were asked what they thought the writers really felt about Castro

2 conditions:
- choice: participants were told essay writers could choose their own stance
- no choice: participants were told essay writers were assigned a stance


Jones and Harris (1967) - Findings and Conclusion

- participants in both conditions assumed the essays reflected the real opinions of their writers
- despite a potential explanation (no choice condition), participants still opted for an internal cause over an external one


Jones and Harris (1967) - Evaluation

- clear IV and DV, shows determinism
- sampling bias: participants were all university students


how FAE occurs

Gilbert and Malone (1995):
two-step attribution process
- step 1: unconscious processing, assumed to be dispositional causes
- step 2: more controlled and conscious processing, considering situational factors

- according to Gilbert and Maline (1995) we usually don't proceed to step 2
e.g. if we're not preoccupied/mentally lazy = enough cognitive resources to proceed
e.g. if we believe that dispositional is the right explanation


cultural considerations of FAE

collectivist cultures:
- emphasizes an individual's social relationships (e.g. family, social status)
- hence, less FAE

individualistic cultures:
- emphasizes the individual as the primary cause of action (i.e. you are the cause of your success or failure)
- hence, more FAE

Main study: Norenzayan et al. (2002)


Norenzayan et al. (2002)

gave 2 types of info to Korean and American participants:
- dispositional only: both made dispositional attributions
- situational + dispositional: Koreans took both into account while Americans focused on dispositional

- this indicates how attribution styles may differ between cultures


strengths of FAE

- lots of empirical evidence
- helped us understand common errors we make when attempting to explain surrounding events


weaknesses of FAE

- culture-specific: too much focus on individualism
- most of the empirical evidence comes from laboratory experiments (low ecological validity)
- sample bias: most FAE studies are made up of student participants


self-serving bias

- coined by Ross (1977)
- tendency people have to explain their own successful behaviour as due to disposition
- and tendency to explain less successful behaviour as due to situational factors

Main study: Johnson et al. (1964)


why does SSB occur?

- to maintain self-esteem
- so as not to succumb to depression
- Abramson et al. (1989): depressed people often attribute success to external events, and failure to internal causes
- thus the fact that depressed people don't have SSB contributes to their depression
- People typically expect to succeed and correlate success with their own effort to exaggerate the amount of„ control they have


Johnson et al. (1964) - Process

- participants taught children simple math problems
- the children were taught in a very simple way to isolate the variable of ‘teaching Maths’
- children then took a test
- test sheets were altered to either show high score or low score


Johnson et al. (1964) - Findings and Conclusion

- when participants saw high scores, they explained it as showing their abilities as teachers
- but when participants saw low scores, they explained it as showing the pupil’s lack of ability
- but this effect has not always been found with experienced teachers
- experienced teachers tend to be more confident and more able to criticize themselves
- thus they were less likely to try to protect their self-esteem


Johnson et al. (1964) - Evaluation

- laboratory experiment: strict control over variables
- clear IV and DV to establish clear determinism

- laboratory experiment: lacks ecological validity, artificial environment
- sample bias: participants all psych students


cultural considerations in SSB

- cultures appear to influence attribution styles
- SSB is arguably closer linked to individualistic societies

Main study: Kashima and Triandis (1986)


Kashima and Triandis (1986) - Overview

- showed unfamiliar slides to American and Japanese students and asked them to memorize the details
- students were asked to evaluate their performance
- Americans were more likely to attribute success to dispositional, and failure to situational
- Japanese tended to explain failure with dispositional
- Japanese exhibited a 'modesty bias' -- a cultural variation of the SSB


strengths of SSB

- explains why people (mostly individualistic) tend to explain successes as dispositional and failures as situational
- empirical support


weaknesses of SSB

- culturally biased to individualistic
- cannot explain the modesty bias present in certain cultures


comparing FAE to SSB

differs in:
- theoretical explanations of those errors
- the strengths and weakness

- approaches of research supporting these theoretical claims (both lab)
- role of culture in each attribution error (individualist = more bias)
- both errors in attribution: they propose flaws in attribution theory and how people explain behaviour

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