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Evaluate the Contribution of 'attribution Theories' and Related Research in Helping Us to Understand the Way in Which People Perceive and Explain Their Social Environment

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Evaluate the contribution of 'attribution theories' and related research in helping us to understand the way in which people perceive and explain their social environment.

The key concepts behind the idea of attribution theories is to question what was the cause why you chose it and what information led you there. [1]Heider in his description tells us that we make judgements based on either internal/disposition causes, which are responsible for the motivating behaviour located in the persons personality or his apparent mood or on external situational causes which are caused by the environment. External attribution tells how the person acts in a situation outside the persons control whereas internal attribution is telling us something about the person and is able to give predictions about any possible actions that person might take. [2] Harold Kelley's theory uses a detailed model called the 'corvariation model' using information from previous behaviour to make sense of current behaviours, considering how behaviours and situations vary together or correlate. [3]Kelley portrays this as that of 'intuitive scientists' echoing Heiders idea of 'naive psychology' but being more developed in that he specifies the procedures and data that he would use. [4]Harold Kelley's theory looks at information from three different variables. These variables include consistency, distinctiveness and consensus. All three variables can be summed up in their simplified counterparts; actor, action and situation. [5]The major benefit of Kelly's theory is that it offers precise prediction and data that is testable, and able to be proven. [6]Experiments such as those based on behavioural events generally use vignette's to test social and psychological theories. A vignette is a short description of an event, situation or behaviour. [7] McArthur tested Kelly's covariation model of attribution using vignettes containing sixteen different behavioural situations. [8]These descriptions were used in different conditions of the experiment and combined with different levels of CCD information. [9]The use of vignettes means participants in the same condition are presented with the same social conditions and provides the researcher with total control over the independent variable or CCD information. [10]Vignettes make it possible to draw information from large numbers of participants. [11]One advantage of vignettes is they have a low ecological validity. Social experiments based on vignettes show us people use CCD information in ways predicted by the theory. [12]There is evidence however that attribution theory overstates 'rationality' of people's casual reasoning; this introduces a new discussion which looks at rationality in making decisions about causes of behaviour. [13]The term 'bias' is used when looking at rationality, because judgements about the causes of behaviour are not always rational and therefore can be looked at as 'bias'. [14]The term bias is generally applied when looking at how we explain someone else's behaviour in reference to how we would explain our own. [15]When looking at someone else's behaviour a bias person would be inclined to use internal attributions rather than external attributions, this way of thinking is known as fundamental attribution error. [16]In explaining our own behaviour as a generalisation we would look at external attributions. This is known as the actor/observer effect. [17]Storms designed an experiment to investigate the 'actor/ observer effect' using four participants, two given the role of the actor and the other two of the observers. [18]The fours participants were asked to converse while at the same time the observers were given the task of looking at one actor each. Participants were observed by video cameras and upon conclusion were told that the video of one of the actors being filmed was faulty and in the controlled experiment that the both video cameras were faulty. [19]All four participants were then given the task of identifying the behaviour in term of dispositional and situational causes. In the controlled condition identifications of behaviour was based on the actual conversations rather than the recordings. [20]The statistical analysis showed that actors tended to favour situational explanations of their behaviour and observers to favour dispositional explanations. This provides evidence for fundamental attribution error. Storms found the actors when in controlled situations moved more towards the observers identification than their own, demonstrating the actor/observer affect. [21]Thus Storms experiment supports both a perceptual explanation of FAE and AOE. This is evident because the change in the perceptual perspective led to a change in casual explanations. Other explanations of 'Bias' is that people tend to ignore certain information, known as [22]'perceptual salience'. [23]For the actor the situation is seen as perceptual salience thus he or she sees's causes of their behaviour in the situation rather than being internal. Another explanation is that of 'self serving bias', people identify problems they have been having due to external causes and therefore not their fault whereas their successes are attributed to internal causes. [24]There is an empirical description of this tendency in Lau and Russell's 'attribution in the sports pages'. [25]This stimulus is taken from media reports rather than construction vignettes. The data collected was qualitative using relative themes in newspaper articles. [26]This method became known as 'content analysis' and was used to quantify qualitative data.[27] This is crucial to experimental research and tests relationships between variables requiring numerical measures of those variables enabling a statistical analysis. [28]This is known as coding and is the process to decide what codes to make use of, doing the coding itself to the process of statistical analysis is known as content analysis. [29]More than one coder is used to, avoiding subjective bias, establishing levels of agreement between the two. [30]The importance of content analysis is that it opens the possibility of using ' real life' data as with Lau and Russell's study which looks at the reaction of managers, baseball players and football players to whether they win or lose. [31]At the same time this process retains the advantages of quantification and a degree of experimental control. This Content analysis promises even greater ecological validity than studies based solely on materials and situations manufactured by researchers. [32]This study found that there was a greater tendency to attribute wins to internal factors than to external factors but that internal attributions



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