Attribution theory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Attribution theory is a social psychology theory developed by Fritz Heider, Harold Kelley, Edward E. Jones, and Lee Ross.

The theory is concerned with the ways in which people explain (or attribute) the behavior of others or themselves (self-attribution) with something else. It explores how individuals "attribute" causes to events and how this cognitive perception affects their usefulness in an organization.


[edit] Internal versus external

The theory divides the way people attribute causes into two types.

  • "External" or "situational" attribution assigns causality to an outside factor, such as the weather.
  • "Internal" or "dispositional" attribution assigns causality to factors within the person, such as their own level of intelligence or other variables that make the individual responsible for the event.

The covariation model developed by Harold Kelley examines how people decide whether an internal or an external attribution will be made.

[edit] Attribution Theory in Education

There is also the Attribution Theory of Motivation. This describes how the individual's explanation, justification, and excuses about self or others influence motivation. Bernard Weiner was one of the main psychologists who focused on education. He was responsible for relating the attribution theory back to education.

There are three dimensions that characterize success or failure: 1. locus (two poles: internal vs. external) 2. stability (do causes change over time or not?) 3. controllability(causes one can control such as skills vs. causes one cannot control such as luck, others’ actions, etc.)

Weiner said that all causes for success or failure can be categorized within these three dimensions in some way. This is because the dimensions affect expectancy and value. Some examples of success or failure could be luck, effort, ability, interest, clarity of instruction, and much more. For example, the internal/external locus seems to be closely related to feelings of self esteem, while stability relates to expectations about the future and controllability is connected to emotions such as anger, pity or shame. When one succeeds, one attributes successes internally ("my own skill'). When a rival succeeds, one tends to credit external (e.g. luck). When one fails or makes mistakes, we will more likely use external attribution, attributing causes to situational factors rather than blaming ourselves. When others fail or make mistakes, internal attribution is often used, saying it is due to their internal personality factors.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Heider, Fritz. (1958). The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-36833-4
  • Woolfolk, Anita (2007). Educational Psychology. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc..

[edit] External links

Personal tools