Attribution Theory essay

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Attribution Theory Covered in the Readings

Human beings are naturally an inquisitive set of species; they are always wondering how and why things occur. For this reason, they create sciences, philosophies and religions as approaches of answering their questions. For decades, this curiosity has influenced their personal, interpersonal, cultural and societal lives in intricate ways. Much of this is observed in our daily lives through our conversations and mindset interactions with other people. For example, human beings tend to question why some people look the way they do. Eventually, they develop answers according to different situations like why some people do not have jobs while others wonder why other people went overseas (Bains, 1983). The process of developing questions and answers to a series of questions are fundamental such that it figures out the underlying causes of things that happen. Researchers have characterized this tendency as a justified basic human activity. A battery of theories has been advanced to give light on how and why things happen as they do. This family of concepts, collectively known as attribution theory seeks to explain and describe the communication and mental processes that form our daily explanations. In this study, I critically discussed the issues in Attribution theory covered in the readings and their related associations. I have also provided a critique of the usefulness of the theory in explaining processes on interpersonal communication (Buss, 1978).


The attribution concept argues that people are able to make sense of their vicinity and surroundings. This is based on what these people consider as the cause and the effect of a given phenomenon. Attribution theory suggests that people observe their own experiences and behavior. They then attempt to figure out what caused these experiences and behavior. Therefore, the causes make people shape their future differently. This review critically discusses the issues found in attribution theory covered in the readings.

History of attribution theory

Charles Antaki in his book talks about the history of attribution theory. The history of the attribution theory starts with studying someone's perception. In the 1950s, individual perception theorists were greatly concerned with things that people think about one another. It is also based on how they would judge one another as well as how people are influenced by their desires and needs. The birth of the attribution theory started when theorists began directing more attention towards people's ascription of qualities and causes. Heider was responsible for the change rationale (Antaki, 1982).

Attribution theory is social psychology's core element. Over the past 40 years, a series of articles have been published in light of this theory. These include handbooks, journals and textbooks focusing on social psychology. According to Bernard Weiner the entire attribution theory as a body of research is easily distinguished into general approaches towards social psychological phenomena. Forming attributions are equal to giving explanations mainly on behavior. Heider further broke down ordinary explanations into two; these are environmental and personal causes. In his analysis, people explain actions by two means. One of them is through attributing the action and linking it with something that has to do with someone who performed it (Antaki, 1982). Another one is by attributing it to an external cause.

Analysis of Attribution theories

The readings have provided a set of examples of attribution theories including inference theories belonging to Jones and Davis. According to these readings, this theory enables people to understand the entire process of making internal attribution. This means that people tend to do other things as a correspondence between behavior and the motive. Dispositional internal attributions provide people with sufficient information from where to make predictions to do with someone's future behavior. According to Davis, using the term correspondent inference only applies when referring to the occasion. For example, when a specific observes infers that someone's behavior corresponds or matches with their personalities. This is another alternative to dispositional attribution (Weiner, 1980).

Kelley's Co variation model is well-known under attribution theories. Kelley came up with a logical model used in judging whether a given action must be attributed to internal characteristics of the environment or a person. The person's characteristics are internal while the environmental characteristics are external. According to him, three major types of causal information influence judgments. These include consistency, consensus and distinctiveness. People in their lives look back on their experiences and look into two main causes. The first one is multiple necessary causes. This includes high motivation in order to succeed. The second one is multiple sufficient causes. This involves looking into sufficient reasons for certain actions.

Weiner's model explains achievement attributions. This refers to someone's causal attributions that lead to achievement behaviors and subsequent achievement motivation and behaviors. These also include shame or pride felt due to failure or success, future achievement expectancies as well as persistence towards similar tasks (Buss, 1978).

Attribution theory of behavior

Bernard Weiner talks about attribution theory of behavior. According to him, performance outcomes are uncommon. This is because attributions include multiple causes. Therefore, whenever performance outcomes are common then attributions are blamed to be the only cause. After a performance of several tasks at the difficult level, Weiner's results evidenced the fact that both effort and ability are necessary in order to attain success. This is because difficult task judgments are an indicator of a complementary causal factor. In order to attain success, all the components and causal factors need to be enhanced and worked on efficiently (Weiner 1985).

Causes and reasons in attribution theory

Allan Russ talks about causes and reasons in attribution theory. This conceptual critique argues that they have not been distinguished from one another adequately despite the fact that reason and cause have appeared in the literature of attribution theory. With the help of recent ideas taken from the philosophy of the mind, the conceptual critique helps in the explanation (Bohner, Bless, Schwarz, & Strack, 1988).

Russ has presented several arguments to show the causes and reasons of attribution theories. The causes as well as reasons are distinct categories that give explanations on various behavioral aspects. The causes always lead to changes. On the other hand, reasons also play a critical role in bringing change. In his reading, Russ has identified two distinct behaviors. One of them is the fact that when non-intentional behavior happens to someone, the person is likely to suffer. This is an occurrence, which is explained by both observers and actors with causes. A close examination of the readings demonstrates that attribution theorists tend to project exclusive causal frameworks. These frameworks lay down explanations of behaviors. It also lays down explanations that look into reasons for these behaviors. Progress in these areas is mainly dependent on the adequacy of the areas' key concepts (Bohner, Bless, Schwarz, & Strack, 1988).

A causal attribution refers to a largely implicit assumption. This assumption serves to guide research in the area where a layperson gives an explanation of behavior mainly on causal terms. There are four main causes. The first one is the efficient cause. This one brings out small changes. The second is the final cause. This is the end or purpose of the resultant change. The third is a formal cause. This refers to the shape or pattern of the changed one. The fourth is the material cause where the change is finally realized.

Control and attribution theory

Bains in his book explaining the need for control tries to link attribution theory to control. The major concept when studying attribution theory is a control. It is referred as the locus of control. Here, one makes interpretations of events and states that they mainly caused by someone's behavior. It can also be caused by outside or rather external circumstances. Someone with an internal control often believes that performance in a given work project is steered mainly by his or her ability and the amount of hard work exhibited. The external forces also attribute either failure or success by making different conclusions. From Bains perspective, it is evident that conclusions may be contributed by aspects like a hard project or the boss may have been extremely unhelpful in allowing one to finish the project. An internal locus of control in short is often associated with physical health as well as optimism toward achieving something. People who possess it are always successful (Bains, 1983). External or internal attribution is made with respect to several other people. This includes situations like is the person singly responsible for the event or is the event caused by things that are beyond the person's control.

Issues in measuring attribution theories

Solomon S. wrote on how to measure dispositional and situational attributions. Disposition attribution mainly explains individual's behaviors. This is mainly due to internal characteristics. These internal characteristics often reside within an individual. Dispositional optimism tends to apply across several situations. On the other hand, situational attribution mainly stems from the environment. It can also stem or arise from a culture that is tied to the individual. According to Solomon, four…[continue]

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