Motivation in language learning is defined as "the combination of effort plus desire to achieve the goal of learning the language plus favorable attitudes toward learning the language" (Gardner, 1985, p. 10). Related to this notion, attribution theory was considered as the dominant concept in motivation, social psychology, and educational psychology in the 1970s. This theory mostly concerns with the explanations people tend to make to explain their perceived successes and failures (Weiner, 1974).
Attribution theory is not just a "scientific conception" but rather a "field of study" which concerns with how laypeople answer their "why" questions such as "why did I fail my exam?" and also the result of "causal beliefs" in their success and failure (Weiner & Craighead, 2010, p.184). Foreign language learners face these "why" questions very often in the process of learning and they try to answer them in different ways. Individuals will view these attributions from different perspectives (Dornyei, 2003). In other words, each learner with his individual difference, perception, and the context in which he is, relates his learning ability or inability to different factors. The wide varieties of learners' attributions could refer back to their personality type which is specific to each individual, so learners' personality traits may help or hinder the process of their language learning. Furthermore, as Williams and Burden (1997) proposed, in the domain of language learning the investigation of how learners perceive themselves and what effect personal constructs have upon the process of learning is helpful for teachers to help the individuals.
It seems that the relationship between learners' personality traits and their attributional factors has not been examined to date. Therefore, based on the gaps in the previous studies and few numbers of studies that considered attribution theory in the field of language learning, and the importance of this theory (Dornyei, 2005), what qualities the language learners possess that lead them to attributing to different factors needs to be further established. The present study is an attempt to explore the relationship between attribution theory and personality traits among Iranian EFL learners. Teachers' and learners' lack of awareness of this probable relationship can lead to discouragement of language learners' further perseverance.
2. Theoretical Background
2.1 Attribution Theory
Attribution theory is a dominant conception in the area of motivation, social psychology, and educational psychology. It has stood the test of time as not only does it have a powerful empirical support, but also it has acted responsively to empirical challenges (Weiner, 2000). This theory was introduced by Heider and developed by other scholars including Kelley, Jones, Davis, and Weiner (Feshbach, Weiner, & Bohart, 1996).
To have a better understanding of the ways people try to make sense of every single event that occurs in their lives, Fritz Heider (1944, 1958) introduced what he called a "naive psychology of the layperson" (as cited in Williams & Burden, 1997, p. 104). The central point of what Heider has developed is how a person perceives the event rather than the event in itself that influences behavior. He considered people as active interpreters of the events happening in their lives when they try to explain and interpret such events in order to understand the world (Manusov & Spitzberg, 2008). Weiner (1979, 1980, & 1986) played an important role in constructing the attribution theory which mostly concerns with the factors people attribute their failures and successes to in education and other domains (Williams & Burden, 1997). He argued that the reasons to which people ascribe their previous success and failure form their motivation for future attempts (Weiner, 1992, as cited in Dornyei, 2005).
Weiner (1986) suggested four sets of attributions for people's success and failure in any aspects of life: ability, effort, luck, and task difficulty. The first two factors, ability and effort, are internal factors as they come from inside the person while luck and task difficulty are forms of external attribution. Weiner termed these two notions of internality and externality as locus of causality which is one of the main attribution dimensions. The other aspect is called stability, that is, if the factor is stable or it may be changed. Later, Weiner introduced a third dimension that he called controllability which refers to the elements either within people's control or not.
In a constructivist theory of learning, what the learner does constructs personal meaning (Schumann, 1999). Attribution theory has a constructive perspective in which individuals bring their own meaning to the world thus perception of the world and themselves are personal. With regard to specific event and activity, individuals differ in their attributions and dimensions; therefore, it leads to different outcomes. In other words, attributions are not global but rather situation-specific (Williams & Burden, 1997). According to Oxford (2002), this theory is important, however, it has not been studied sufficiently in the domain of language learning.
In educational psychology, considerable attention has been given to the learners' attributions for their successes and failures, however, little research has been done in foreign language learning context (Williams, Burden, Poulet, & Maun, 2004). Among these studies Pishghadam and Modarresi (2008) constructed and validated a questionnaire to investigate the factors English language learners attribute their successes and failures to. Williams, Burden, Poulet, and Maun (2004) found out about attributions for success and failure in foreign language learning and the effect of gender, age, …