Topic: Attributing Behavior to Persons or Situations
Posted by: Susie, James
Summary: Fritz Heider proposed the attribution theory after studying how people explain others' behavior. In the theory he notes that people tend to attribute others' behavior either to their internal dispositions or to their external situations. An example of dispositional attribution is when a teacher wonders whether a child's hostility reflects an aggressive personality. On ther other hand assuming the child is reacting to stress or abuse would be situational attribution.
Fundamental Attribution Error is the tendency to underestimate situational influences on one's behavior. An experiment by David Napolitan and George Goethals in 1979 illustrated the Fundamental Attribution Error.
When explaing our own behavior, we are sensitive to how our behavior changes with the situations we encounter whereas when explaining others' behavior, particularly after observing them in only one type of situation, we often commit the fundamental attribution error: we disregard the situation and leap to unwarrented conclusions about their personality traits.
Our attributions - to individuals' dispositions or to their situations - have real consequences.
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