Shortcomings in the attribution process: On the origins and maintenance of erroneous social assessments


Book: 
Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases
Authors: 
Ross, L., & Anderson, C. A.
Editors: 
Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., & Tversky, A.
Type: 
Category: 
Pages: 
129-152
Year: 
1982
Publisher: 
Cambridge University Press
Place: 
New York
Abstract: 

Attribution theory, in its broadest sense, is concerned with the attempts of ordinary people to understand the causes and implications of the events they witness. It deals with the "naive psychology" of people as they interpret their own behavior and the actions of others. The current ascendancy of attribution theory in social psychology thus culminates a long struggle to upgrade that discipline's conception of man. No longer the stimulus-response (S-R) automation of radical behaviorism, promoted beyond the rank of information processor and cognitive consistency seeker, psychological man has at last been awarded a status equal to that of the scientist who investigates him. For in the perspective of attribution theory, people are intuitive psychologists who seek to explain behavior and to draw inferences about actors and about their social environments. The intuitive scientist's ability to master his social environment, accordingly, will depend upon the accuracy and adequacy of his hypotheses, evidence, and analyses. Conversely, any systematic errors in existing theories, biases in available data, or inadequacies in methods of analysis, yield serious consequences - both for the lay psychologist and for the society that he builds and perpetuates. These shortcomings, explored from the vantage point of contemporary attribution theory, provide the focus of this chapter.

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