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Discuss two errors in attribution

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Attribution is defined as how people interpret and explain causal relationships in the social world. It is designating an outcome to one or more external factors. There are two errors in attribution: The fundamental attribution error and the self- serving bias.

The definition of the fundamental attribution error is when people tend to aggrandize the role of dispositional factors (something to do with personal or internal factors) and disparage the situational (something to do with external or external factors). The fundamental attribution error occurs when individuals observe other individuals and automatically make assumptions about their behavior.

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The assumptions are usually dispositional factors, for example if someone sees one person hitting another person, they automatically arrive at the hypothesis that the person actually hitting the other person is evil, rather than even thinking about the situational factors (the man could have been doing it in self defense).

An example of the fundamental attribution error is Ross et al. (1977). In this study, the participants were assigned one of three roles: a game show host, a game show contestant or a part of the audience.

The game show hosts were instructed to design their own questions that they would ask the contestants. The aim of this study was to see if the participants would make the fundamental attribution error (overestimate the role of dispositional factors, and underestimate the situational factors), despite the fact that they knew all the participants of the experiment were simply playing a role. The result of this study was that when the observers were asked to rank the participants in terms of intelligence, they consistently ranked the game show hosts as being the most intelligent, despite the fact that they knew that this person was randomly assigned to this position, and that this person had also written the questions.

The observers attributed the person’s performance to dispositional factors (in this case, intelligence) rather than to situational (the hosts were allowed to make up and ask their own questions). Although this study essentially supported the attribution error, there were really some limitations with the study, for instance the participants were all college students who are used to listening to their professors talk all day. The professors are usually authorities figures in the eyes of the students, and professors usually ask questions and then give answers. This could have had an effect on the participants, because they are used to the people asking questions being the most intelligent. Another limitation is that the sample does not reflect a larger population, as the study consisted of mainly young adults, therefore its debatable whether the findings can be generalized or not.

One more example of the Fundamental Attribution is Jones and Harris et al. (1967). The aim of the study was really to demonstrate the fundamental attribution error. All the participants were university students, whom were instructed to read pro and anti Fidel Castro essays. The students were then asked to rate the essays in terms of attitude on a scale between ten and seventy. The subjects were either told that the authors of the essays either had a free choice on their position, or were told that a coin toss determined their position. In both cases, writers who were writing in favor of Castro constantly had a more positive attitude. This proves that despite the fact that behavior was influenced by situation, the participants still opted for a dispositional attitude. Limitations are that it possibly lacks ecological validity and it is ethnocentric.

The self-serving bias occurs when people take credit for their own success, which they appoint to dispositional factors, and disconnect from their failures, which they appoint to situational factors. Greenberg et al. (1982) argues that the reason individuals employ the self-serving bias is to protect their self-esteem. The self-serving bias is a mean of self-protection. When people are successful in doing something, they tend to attribute their success to dispositional factors, as it boosts self-esteem. For example, if a student scored exceptionally well in a test, the typical reaction is “I studied so hard”, where as in reality the test could have been easy. This causes an expansion in self-esteem because the individual feels as if he/she has accomplished something through his or her own hard work. On the other hand, if someone does not do particularly well in something, the failure can be attributed to situational factors, which essentially protects self-esteem, as the individual is accrediting their failure to another factor.

For example if a student fails a test, the typical reaction is “the test was really hard” or “the teacher didn’t teach us well”, where as the real fault could have been that the student didn’t study hard enough. This protects the self-esteem of the individual, as they are not being blamed for their own failure. On the downside, there is a limitation to this theory which is that at times there is some truth in what the individual is saying, and it is impossible to be correct one hundred percent of the time, for example take the example of the student and the test. If a student fails a test, the student could have studied extremely hard but still have failed because indeed, the test was difficult, thus the reason the student failed was actually situational.

Johnson et al. (1964) is an experiment that supports the theory of the self-serving bias. The participants of the experiment were all psychology students who taught two children how to multiply through an intercom that was only one sided. There were two phases. The first child (child A) got everything correct, but the second child (child B) either got almost everything incorrect both times, or got almost everything correct the first time and then improved the second time. The results of this experiment showed that in the situation where child B improved, the participants accredited his success to their own ability as teachers, but when child B did poorly, the blamed it on the child’s lack of ability to learn. This clearly portrays the self-serving bias as shows how when people succeed, they tend to credit themselves (dispositional) and when they fail, they tend to blame it on external factors (situational).

Subsequently, another example of the self-serving bias is Lau and Russell et al. (1980). The aim of the study was to investigate whether individuals (Specifically coaches, athletes and sports journalists) contain a self-serving bias. Different articles from eight various newspapers covering thirty-three major events in (1997) baseball and football games were analyzed for and indication of the self-serving bias. Direct quotes from the subjects were analyzed to see whether players or coaches would come up with different reasons as a result of their success or failure. A total of one hundred and seven articles were analyzed by a group of undergraduate professionals.

The result of the experiment was that more than seventy four percent of the winning teams attribution was dispositional. Collectively from all the data, Lau and Russell arrived at the conclusion that Americans (this is a limitation of the study, will be further elaborated on) tend to attribute their success to internal factors and attribute their losses to external factors. Also, individuals directly involved (coaches and players) are more likely to attribute positive incomes than individuals not directly involved (sportswriters). A limitation of this study was that all the participants were American; therefore it would be wrong to generalize as not everyone shares the same culture (lacks cultural validity). Another limitation was that it only included two sports. On the other hand, the most positive strength of the study was the ecological validity, as real-world settings were utilized (also the aim was essentially proved). Additionally, Culture has a big role in the self-serving bias. Typically the self-serving bias is more prominent in western cultures rather than Asian cultures, because in Asian societies most people there derive their self-esteem from group identity rather than individual accomplishments.

An example of cultural factors affecting attribution (the self-serving bias in particular) is Kashima and Triandis et al. (1986). The participants of the experiment were all students from either the United States of America or Japan. The participants were given images of countries that were particularly unfamiliar and subsequently asked to remember details about the specific countries. The American students had a tendency to attribute their success to dispositional factors, whereas the Japanese students attributed their failures to dispositional factors. The American students did so because they incorporated the self-serving bias, and the Japanese students did so because they incorporated the modesty bias. Due to this study, it can be inferred that biases in attribution can indeed be affected by culture. Although the experiment was successful in proving its aim, there were some limitations as the study lacked ecological validity, in that it was a very naturalistic observation.

Cite this Discuss two errors in attribution

Discuss two errors in attribution. (2016, May 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/discuss-two-errors-in-attribution/

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