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It can be Argued that Attribution Theory does no more than Suggest that Individuals see the World Solely in the Light of Their Own Biases. To what Extentis this a Fair Interpretation of Attribution Theory?

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It can be Argued that Attribution Theory does no more than Suggest that Individuals see the World Solely in the Light of Their Own Biases. To what Extentis this a Fair Interpretation of Attribution Theory? Attribution theory analyses how we explain people's behaviour. Heider (1958), the founder of attribution theory, called his approach a 'common sense psychology'. He said that behaviour was shaped by internal and external factors. Internal factors were factors that could be controlled by the person. These were factors like ability and effort. External factors were out of the person's control. These were factors like difficulty of the task and luck. Kelley (1967, 1973) followed Heider with the next addition to the attribution theory. Kelley questions what information is available to arrive at a causal attribution Kelley came up with the covariation principle. This stated that the behaviour was attributed to a cause when it is present, and absent when the behaviour is absent (Fincham 2001:200). Attention was now on what combinations of information lead to the three main types of causal attribution; person, entity and circumstances. McArthur (1972) experimentally investigated Kelley's covariation principle by giving participants three types of information. ...read more.


It is easy to create a first step opinion due to the information being ready at hand. The second step takes more analysis and conscious thinking. This attribution error is subject to cultural variation. The Western world puts emphasis on the individual. It is a widespread belief that anyone can achieve what they want if 'they put their mind to it'. This immediately places causal attribution on what the subject has done to achieve what they have in life. More 'collective' cultures tend to become less dispositional and more situational (Fincham 2001:210). This can be seen in a piece of research carried out by Morris and Peng (1994). They compared two murder stories of a Chinese student murderer and a American postal worker murderer in both an American newspaper and a Chinese newspaper. The American paper place more dispositional attributions about the Chinese and American murders than the Chinese paper. This leads us to believe that Western cultures appear to be more like personality psychologists, viewing behaviour in dispositional terms (Aronson 1999:132). Only if they are led to think deeper about the event do they encompass situational factors. In contrast, Eastern cultures focus on situational factors when making attributions. ...read more.


Hewstone and Ward (1985) used group of people in Malaysia that was split into two smaller ethnic groups. It was split into a majority-Malay and minority-Chinese. When asked to explain the behaviour of a Malay, the majority group made dispositional factors when the behaviour was positive and situational factors when it was negative. In contrast, the majority group made situational attributions for positive Chinese behaviour and dispositional attributions for negative Chinese behaviour. The most obvious basis for intergroup attributions is to view your own group positively to boost self-esteem (Fincham 2001:217). The person making the attributions is always in a situation that will cause bias to dispositional or situational factors when making attributions. The bias is normally subconscious and just a reaction to the information we are given. The information we receive and process allows us to form ideas and make attributions. In many cases, we do not receive the same information so are bound to come to different conclusions. On other occasions, when we do receive the same information as someone else, we may come to different conclusions to the other person because of our different cultures. Another time when alternative conclusions are reached may be when we are looking to keep our self-esteem. With so many different factors influencing our decision of where attributions lie, it seems that each individual sees the world through their own biases. ...read more.

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