Attribution theory: people’s tendency to attempt to explain possible relationships in the social world.
Situational factors- behavior is dependent upon current circumstances or situation; the cause of the behavior is seen to be external to the individual, e.g. circumstances or luck. Ex: weather during a game, favoritism during a test, broken down car when being late, etc.
Dispositional factors-Behavior is caused by factors which are specific to them as a person, their personality or other internal and generally unchanging characteristics. internal factors, factors pertaining to the personal attributes/actions. Ex: intelligence, motivation, looks, personality, etc.
Twelve students were selected out of 75 to play the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Another twelve of the same 75 were selected to play the Guards. Roles were assigned randomly to the 24 men. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the officers to display authoritarian measures and ultimately to subject some of the prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of the guards, readily inflicted punishment on other prisoners who attempted to stop it.
Zimbardo became involved with the defense team of lawyers representing Abu Ghraib prison guard Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick. He had full access to all investigation and background reports, testifying as an expert witness in SSG Frederick's court martial, which resulted in an eight-year prison sentence for Frederick in October 2004. Zimbardo drew on the knowledge he gained from participating in the Frederick case to write the book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.
Mindlessly Taking the First Small Step Dehumanization of Others De-individualization of Self (anonymity) Diffusion of Personal Responsibility Blind Obedience to Authority Uncritical Conformity to Group Norms Passive Tolerance of Evil Through Inaction, or Indifference Happens when in new or unfamiliar situations
Milgram who investigated the dispositional attribution of Nazi German soldiers. In the Obedience experiments, ordinary people fulfilled orders to administer what appeared to be fatal electric shocks to a confederate of the experimenter. Milgram argued it was situational cues ( such as the prestigious setting, and authority of the experimenter) that compelled participants to administer dangerous shocks. Bierbauer ( 1979 )
People tend to connect success to dispositional factors, and failure to situational factors (side note blaming things on dispositional factors when failing to much can be harmful to self-esteem). This is called self- serving bias. People also tend to explain others behavior mainly in terms of dispositional factors and often do not deeply consider situational factors, this is called fundamental attribution error.
Jones and Harris hypothesized that people would attribute apparently freely-chosen behaviors to disposition, and apparently chance-directed behaviors to situation. The hypothesis was confounded by the fundamental attribution error. Subjects read pro- and anti-Fidel Castro essays. Subjects were asked to rate the pro-Castro attitudes of the writers. When the subjects believed that the writers freely chose the positions they took (for or against Castro), they naturally rated the people who spoke in favor of Castro as having a more positive attitude towards Castro. However, contradicting Jones and Harris' initial hypothesis, when the subjects were told that the writer's positions were determined by a coin toss, they still rated writers who spoke in favor of Castro as having, on average, a more positive attitude towards Castro than those who spoke against him. In other words, the subjects were unable to see the influence of the situational constraints placed upon the writers; they could not refrain from attributing sincere belief to the writers.
Campbell & Sedikides, 1999 Participants perform a task that tends to be a test of intelligence, social sensitivity, teaching ability, or therapy skills. The participants are then given feedback about how they performed on the task, which usually has no relation to how the participant actually did on the task in reality – the feedback is bogus. The participants then assign attributions for the outcome. They determine what factors contributed to the outcome of the event. The questions about attribution could either ask about effort and ability versus difficulty and luck or the participants are instructed to declare their responsibility for the result of the task. The self-serving bias is exhibited when participants attribute failure to external factors and success to internal factors
Correspondent Inferences state that people make inferences about a person when his or her actions are freely chosen, are unexpected, and result in a small number of desirable effects. According to Edward E. Jones and Keith Davis’ Correspondent Inference Theory, people make correspondent inferences by reviewing the context of behavior. It describes how people try to find out individual’s personal characteristics from the behavioral evidence. People make inferences on the basis of three factors; degree of choice, expectedness of behavior, and effects of someone’s behaviors.
Co-variation principle states that people attribute behavior to the factors that are present when a behavior occurs and absent when it does not. Thus, the theory assumes that people make causal attributions in a rational, logical fashion, and that they assign the cause of an action to the factor that co-varies most closely with that action. Harold Kelley's co-variation model of Attribution looks to three main types of information from which to make an attribution decision about an individual's behavior.
The first is consensus information, or information on how other people in the same situation and with the same stimulus behave. The second is distinctiveness information, or how the individual responds to different stimuli. The third is consistency information, or how frequent the individual's behavior can be observed with similar stimulus but varied situations. From these three sources of information observers make attribution decisions on the individual's behavior as either internal or external.
Stanford Prison Experiment Situational or Dispositional? Milgram Experiment Situational or Dispositional?