Dispositional Attributions Attribution Differences in Essay

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This study set out to test the hypotheses that people from Eastern cultural backgrounds compared to those from Western backgrounds would make fewer dispositional attributions about the behavior of fictitious characters that the read about and would also demonstrate a more collective attitude towards themselves.

With respect to the first hypothesis, that Western participants would make a greater number of dispositional attributions that would participants with Eastern cultural heritages, that hypothesis was supported. However, there are a few caveats that need to be mentioned with regards to this. First, the scenarios that were presented to the participants only provided two alternatives to explain the behavior of the person. One alternative was a negative dispositional explanation, the other was a situational explanation could have been interpreted as far-fetched in some cases. Miller (1984) found that the tendency for Westerners to make internal attributions was higher for deviant behaviors. Morris and Peng (1994) found that explanations provided by Westerners for certain behaviors focused on negative dispositional aspects. There were no instances of positive explanatory behaviors in the survey, nor was there much information about the event to go on. Thus, Western subjects may have simply picked the easiest explanation, whereas Eastern subjects may have went for the most descriptive explanation (Choi et al., 2003). By not providing a more balanced number of scenarios (positive and negative attributions) more alternative choices, and a neutral point the results are actually inconclusive at this time. Thus a cognitive bias such as confirmation bias or attributional error may not have played an important role in the current findings.

The second hypothesis was not supported, that is that those from Eastern backgrounds did not display lower levels of independence than did Westerners. There are several possible explanations. First the standard deviation of the independence scale in Western participants indicates that they displayed a wide variation in their level of independence compared to Eastern subjects (see Table One). This indicates that in this group there is a broader range of feelings of independence, whereas Easterners were a more homogeneous group. Moreover, this variance reduced the power of the t-test. A multivariate test such as MANOVA combining more than one dependent variable may have offered greater statistical power. Finally, it also should be noted that the Eastern group may have been more acculturated to the notion of personal individuality as they had been in the U.S. For some time.

This study could be improved by offering more choices in the scenarios and allowing for more information to be given about the characters. It would also be interesting to compare groups using both participants raised in Eastern societies and those from Eastern backgrounds raised in the U.S. Finally, the use of a cultural identity scale can prime participants to respond in a specific manner. Administering such scales on separate occasions and counterbalancing administration a week before or after the administration of the other scales could avoid this problem.


Chiu, C-y., Morris, M.W., Hong, Y-y., & Menon, T. (2000). Motivated cultural cognition: the impact of implicit cultural theories on dispositional attribution varies as a function of need for closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 247 -- 259.

Choi, I., Dalal, R., Kim-Prieto, C., & Park, H. (2003). Culture and judgment of causal relevance.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 46 -- 59.

Jones, E.E. & Harris, V.A. (1967). The attribution of attitudes. Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, 3, 2-24.

Miller, J.G. (1984). Culture and development of everyday social explanation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 961-978.

Miller, J.G., Bersof, D.M., & Harwood, R.L. (1990). Perceptions of social responsibilities in India and in the United States: Moral imperatives or personal decisions? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 33-47.

Morris, M.W., & Peng, K. (1994). Culture and cause: American and Chinese attributions for social and physical events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 949-971.

Rosenhan, D.L. (1973). On Being Sane in Insane Places. Science, 179, 250-258.

Ross, L. (1977). The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings: Distortions in the attribution process. In L. Berkowitz, L. (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. 10, (pp. 173 -- 220). New York: Academic Press.

Watson, P. (1960). On the failure to eliminate hypotheses in a…[continue]

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