Presentation on theme: "Attribution II : Biases"— Presentation transcript:
1 Attribution II : Biases Dr Elizabeth SheppardC81INDIndividual in Society
2 Primary questions When do we make attributions? Do people’s attributions show any systematic biases?
3 When do we make attributions? Weiner (1985) reviewed evidence for “spontaneous causal thinking”.Two key factors which elicit attributions1.) Unexpected events2.) Non-attainment of a goalKanazawa (1992) found expectancy only an effect on causal thinkingLoss of control ( Liu & Steele, 1986)Emotions such as sadness and anger (Keltner, Ellsworth, & Edwards, 1993)
4 Attributional biasesA number of studies have suggested that in comparison to scientists or statisticians, laypeople are inaccurate in their attributionsA bias occurs if the perceiver systematically distorts some otherwise correct procedure2 classes of explanation for attribution biases1.) Motivational (need)2.) Cognitive (informational)
5 Why are biases in attribution interesting? 1.) They tell us about how people really do make attributions, rather than how they should2.) Understanding bias can help us to promote social justice
6 Fundamental attribution error/ Correspondence bias A tendency to underestimate the impact ofsituational factors and to overestimate the role ofpersonal dispositional factors in controlling behaviourRoss, Amabile, & Steinmetz (1977)– randomly assigned participantsin quiz game to roles of contestantand ‘quiz master’Quiz master was asked to setdifficult questionsBoth contestant & quiz master rated the questioneras much more knowledgeable, overlookingadvantages conferred by being questioner
7 Issues surrounding the fundamental attribution error Not universal to all cultures (Miller,1984).No criteria for accuracy, thus referred to ascorrespondence bias.
8 Explanations of correspondence bias Motivational – Dispositional attribution gives us a sense of control- just world hypothesisCognitive – emphasise knowledge base of attributions and social information processing.Salience explanation (Rholes & Prior, 1982)Differential rates of forgetting (Peterson, 1980) (counter evidence – Burger, 1991)
9 Actor-observer differences (divergence) Actors (self) attribute their actions to situational factors whereas the observer (other) tends to attribute the same actions to stable personal dispositions.e.g. Shyness in tutorial group
10 Explanations of Actor-observer differences Cognitive explanations1.) A greater amount of information available to the actors or self-raters2.) Focus of attention (perceptual explanation)
11 Perceptual explanation of the actor- observer effect Storms (1973) found actors became less situational, and observers more situational when shown new orientation of the situation.
12 Actor-Observer differences Motivational component Buehler, Griffin & Ross (1995)- extended the actor-observer differences to other kinds of judgement and found motivational componentFound individuals tend to underestimate how long it would take them to complete a task, whereas they would predict others would take longer to do the task
13 Self-serving biasTendency to attribute one’s success to internal causes, but attribute failures to external causesE.g. Kingdon (1967) interviewed successful & unsuccessful American politicians about major factors in successes & failures. Tended to attribute wins to internal factors (hard work, reputation) but failures to external (lack of money, national trends)Actually involves 2 two biases –1.) self-enhancing bias (taking credit for success)2.) Self-protecting bias (denying responsibility for failure)Self-handicapping bias – more subtle form of self-serving bias
14 Explanations of self-serving bias Cognitive explanation - Miller & Ross (1975) If people intend to succeed, then behaviour can be seen to be due to their efforts, then it seems reasonable to accept more credit for success than failureMotivational explanation – Zuckerman (1979) argues the need to maintain self-esteem directly affects the attribution of task outcomes
15 The False Consensus Effect Tendency for people to see own behaviour as typical & assume that others would do same under similar circumstancesRoss et al. (1977) – askedstudents if they would agree towalk around campus for 30 minswearing sandwich board saying‘Eat at Joe’s’Those who agreed estimated62% of peers would agreeThose who refused estimated67% of peers would refuse
16 Explaining the false consensus effect CognitiveOur own opinions are more salient to us & displace consideration of alternativesWe seek out company of similar others so encounter more people with similar beliefs, interests etc. – experience inflated consensusMotivationalWe subjectively justify the correctness of our opinions by grounding them in exaggerated consensus – may enable stable perception of reality
17 Group-serving biases (Ultimate attribution error) Tendency to attribute bad outgroup & good ingroup behaviour internally, & to attribute good outgroup & bad ingroup behaviour externallyHewstone & Ward (1985) – study of majority malay & minority chinese ethnic groups in MalaysiaParticipants read stories that were either positive or negative involving either ingroup or outgroup actorMalay group made internal attributions for positive ingroup behaviour & external for negative ingroup behaviour, reverse for outgroupHowever, chinese group made same pattern of responses i.e. favoured the outgroupHewstone & Ward explain this in terms of the particular nature of intergroup relations at this time
18 Explanations for group-serving bias Cognitive -Social categorisation generates category-congruent expectations (schemas, stereotypes)Behaviour that is consistent with stereotypes is attributed to internal causes (e.g. Bell et al., 1976)If behaviour confirms expectation may rely on dispositions implied by stereotype without considering other factorsMotivational –Need to obtain self-esteem from group membership by comparing with other groups (social identity theory)Vested interest in maintaining ingroup profile that is more positive than relevant outgroups
19 Explaining bias: motivation or cognition? Early research apparently favoured ego-based explanations for biasHowever, by manipulating info available, can modify biases implying information processing errorsBut is social cognition really affect-free?Cognitive & motivational explanations are linked, making it difficult to choose between the twoCognitive explanations actually contain motivational aspects (Zuckerman, 1979)Motivational factors can have an effect on information processing (cognition)
20 Effects of biases Controversy over effects of biases Some argue our judgements are highly erroneous – more errors in real life than the lab (Nisbett & Ross, 1980)Others say we are generally accurate in judgements but lab set up to generate error (e.g. Funder, 1987)Cognitive misers – people use least demanding cognitions to produce behaviour generally adaptive (Taylor, 1981)
21 Summary Various biases affect social judgements/attributions: Fundamental attribution errorActor-observer differencesSelf-serving biasFalse consensusBiases are probably the result of an interplay between cognitive and motivational factors
22 ReferencesHewstone & Stroebe (2001) Introduction to Social Psychology, Chapter 7.Fraser & Burchell (2001) Introducing Social Psychology, Chapter 11.
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