is an attribution? An attribution is how we see the causes of our
behavior and the behavior of others.
Even though these thoughts are not always complete they are adequate
enough for us to formulate an idea about what the reasons are for a
The theory of attribution says we always try to figure out why we do
the things we do, the reasons behind those reasons.
The theory deals with the information we use to make casual
assumptions and how we deal with that information to answer simple
If we know the reasons people behave the way they do we can help
predict the future behaviors of others.
This can help protect us from any unwanted disappointments.
The need for the reasons behind our behaviors helps us put reasons to
These usually focus on settings that involve at least two people.
One that is makes a judgment regarding someone else’s behavior and
the other person whose behavior is being judged in return.
When those people try to find a way to explain the reasons for other
people’s behaviors they are now a part of attribution theory.
can help us to understand and react to our social environment.
It is important to understand how this is done because the
attributions apply can have implications.
Ideas about how our personal disposition affects attribution were
further developed by John Maltby.
He found that when we attempt to judge the reasons for the deliberate
behavior of another person, we first attempt to attribute it to some
concealed aim and then we look at the disposition of the person that
created that intention.
was a change to attribution theory that was proposed by Horald
His model, co-variation, was an analysis of how the process deals
with potential questions of how we establish the effectiveness of our
own or another person’s impressions.
Kelley’s model is probably the most popular attribution theory.
Basically, he said that when we try to find out the reasons people
act the way they do we become, in essence, scientists ourselves.
His found that the measurement of co-variation and its conditions as
well as it effects is what leads to us making those attributions in
the first place.
There are three things that define co-variation.
These things are that it is distinctiveness, the degree to which a
person acts out different behaviors with different things, there is a
general consensus, the degree to which other people perform the same
behavior with the same thing and consistency, the degree to which a
person performs the same behavior towards something at different
Horald Kelly’s co-variation model used a specific technique known as
This helped him test the changes by changing the independent
variables of the research.
theory is fairly easy to put into actual use, or testing, because
many people in this field have dedicated so much research time to the
theory and its development as well as utilization of the theory.
That basic research lends itself to application of the theory.
Remember that the similarities between the co-variation and the
applied research are not obvious.
The attribution principles, like the co-variance model, can’t be
associated with a single model or addition to the theory.
Also, the findings that have been obtained through this basic
research can be applied easily to all settings but did, and still
does, require further research.
are many different ways to classify the types of reasons created by
those involved when explaining why people succeed or why they fail.
It was discovered that the way achievements were assessed was
influenced by effort more than ability despite the fact that both are
It was assumed hereby assumed that effort and ability differ in
That the efforts, abilities and skills are different in stability as
well as control and that either reason can be the reason for why they
are evaluated differently.
Control is the reason for any rewards and also any punishments.
It makes a difference which category we assign the reason that an
effect is associated with.
could apply this theory to almost any incident where someone acts a
For instance, If there a celebrity that was in a huge publicized
trial for committing murder.
People that think the person is guilty would try to find some reason
why they would have committed the crime.
Int this instance they see that crime as something the person could
have been in control of so they would be responsible for their
In the opposite direction, if the actions of that celebrity were seen
as out of their control, self-defense for instance, they would not be
held as responsible for the results because they didn’t decide for
When we consider those alternative causes they may be seen as
something temporary or in the heat of the moment.
critique can be used to help us understand any kind of reaction
toward the celebrity.
If we attribute the crime to something they were in control of then
we can assume that the person would be capable of the same results in
Of course, these kinds of expectations would then advocate severe
penalties in the hopes of warding off the behavior that resulted in
Alternatively, attributing the celebrity’s crime to something out of
their control causes us to think that the possibility of the action
being repeated is unlikely.
This would mean there is no need for a penalty.
was a study done by Helene Provencher where the attributes of
obligation and criticism for any bad behaviors in the caregivers of a
person with schizophrenia is observed.
(Provencher 2000) The study examined three different attributions
from positive and negative behaviors.
These were examined to see if they could predict what these
attributions were and how they related to one another.
“Social psychological studies show that people attribute cause,
responsibility and blame differently.
Casual attribution corresponds to the factors that produce an event,
responsibility attribution implies a judgment regarding an
individual’s accountability for the event and blame attribution
refers to an evaluative judgment concerning the implicated
individual’s liability for censure” (Provencher 2000).
This study is of a particular interest because it was the first to
examine how the types of attributions for the behaviors in the
caregivers of people with specific schizophrenia patterns of
responsibility appeared for both positive and negative behaviors.
The findings provided some reinforcement for the idea that caregivers
will often to engage in different attribution processes for both
positive and negative behaviors.
attribution theory represents the diverse sector of research as well
as the further study of attributions.
This has helped to further the understanding that the many emotions
and many behaviors affect how we interpret those in others.
It also shows that our preference for specific types attributions
effect the many decisions we make.
These range from our own individual decisions to the larger
Attribution theory begins with the interest of casual explanations
and explains the different ways in which any information must be
examined and compared so that any explanations made are possible.