Attribution and person perception

Trope, Yaacov and Gaunt, Ruth (2003) Attribution and person perception. In: The SAGE Handbook of Social Psychology. Sage, pp. 190-208. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

Attribution and person perception

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The present chapter will review theoretical and empirical work on how people explain their own and others’ behavior. In the two decades following Heider’s (1958) analysis of lay psychology, attribution theorists developed normative models of attributional inferences (Jones & Davis, 1965; Kelley, 1967), identified systematic violations of these models (e.g., Ross, 1977), and examined the emotional, motivational, and behavioral consequences of attributional inferences (e.g., Weiner, 1979). Based on conceptual and methodological developments in the general area of social cognition, the focus of attribution research in the last two decades has shifted to the investigation of the cognitive processes underlying attributional inferences. The primary objective of the present chapter is to review this relatively new research. The review will be organized around three interrelated topics: (1) perceivers’ pre-existing models of the determinants of behavior, (2) the use of these models in drawing inferences from concrete behavioral episodes, and (3) the influence of perceivers’ goals and motivation on inference.
The first section of the chapter will review research on perceivers’ mental models of behavior. These models specify how personal forces (abilities, traits) and situational forces (task difficulty, incentives) combine to determine behavior. Several lines of research have found systematic differences in these models as a function of type of ability or trait, culture, developmental stage, and individual differences. Thus, some traits are believed to be sufficient conditions for the corresponding behavior, whereas other traits are believed to be necessary conditions for the corresponding behavior. In some cultures, personal traits are believed to be the primary determinant of the behavior, whereas in other cultures situational contingencies are believed to be the primary determinants of behavior. And within cultures, mental models of behavior have been found to vary across individuals and stage of development.
The second section will review research on the use of such pre-existing mental models for processing immediate behavioral episodes. Two modes of processing have been distinguished, associative and analytic. In the analytic mode, behavior is identified in terms of a behavior category and attributed to an associated dispositions. In the analytic mode, the reliability, base-rates, and alternative explanations are taken into account. The associative mode is fast, resource independent, and uncontrollable, whereas the analytic mode is slow, resource-dependent, and controllable. Errors and biases in attribution and person perception will be discussed in terms of the distinction between associative and analytic thinking.
The third section will review research on motivational influences on attribution and person perception. This research distinguishes between nondirectional motivation, namely, motivation to reach an accurate conclusions and directional motivation, namely, motivation to reach a specific conclusion, one that promotes the self, the ingroup, or positively valued individuals. The chapter will review research that has examined the cognitive mechanism that mediate the influence of these motives on attribution and person perception.

Keywords:Attribution, Person perception, Dispositional inference
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C880 Social Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:39321
Deposited On:07 Jan 2020 08:57

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