Cognitive Social Psychology: The Princeton Symposium on the Legacy and Future of Social Cognition

By Gordon B. Moskowitz | Go to book overview

13
Douglas S. Krull
Northern Kentucky University

On Partitioning the Fundamental Attribution Error:
Dispositionalism and the Correspondence Bias

We often speculate about why things happen. Suppose we learn that a prestigious law firm hired a new attorney and within 3 years he is a partner in the firm. We might wonder why he was promoted so quickly. Is he incredibly talented? Is he the favorite nephew of the senior partner? Suppose we hear of an airplane crash. We might wonder about the cause. Did the engines fail? Was it the pilot's fault? Suppose we meet a colleague in another department and he seems grumpy. We might wonder why he acted that way. Is he a grumpy person? Is he just having a bad day?

Such questions are ubiquitous, and, moreover, they are important. As Gilbert and Malone (1995) pointed out, the consequences of misunderstanding the behavior of others can be quite serious: Guilty people are set free, innocent people are jailed, poor political candidates are elected, people who thought they knew their dates are raped by them, wars are started, relationships are ended. It is difficult to overestimate the problems that can occur because we misunderstand the traits of other people and the causes of their behaviors.

The question of how people understand and explain the behavior of other people is the domain of attribution theory. An attribution is an explanation or a judgment about the cause of some event. More specifically, the subset of attribution theory discussed in this chapter primarily deals with how people make judgments about a particular type of event—the behavior of others. 1

This chapter compares and contrasts two aspects of what is often called the fundamental attribution error. Dispositionalism is the tendency to prefer dispositional attributions over situational attributions. Correspondence bias is the tendency to infer that dispositions correspond to behavior. It is suggested here that, although dispositionalism and correspondence bias are related phenomena, they are not identical, and a consideration of the differences and similarities may help clarify extant research and inform subsequent research efforts. This chapter also points out that, although the tendency to prefer dispositional attributions exists under some conditions, the tendency to prefer situational attributions exists under other conditions. Moreover, it is suggested that the tendency to infer that dispositions correspond to behavior is only one side of the coin because people also tend to infer that situations correspond to behavior. Thus, both correspondence bias and situational correspondence can be thought of as subsets of the more general tendency to draw correspondent inferences.


PAST RESEARCH AND THEORY

Contemporary attribution theory draws its ideas from many sources. Kelley's Covariation Principle can be found in the ideas of many writers, including Mill (1872/1973). Indeed, Hewstone (1990) indicated that White (1989) traced the covariation principle back to William of Ockham, who wrote during the 14th century. Hilton and Slugoski's (1986) Abnormal Conditions Focus Model makes use of Hart and Honore's (1961) insights about commonsense knowledge. Automaticity in impression formation, a cornerstone of many modern attribution theories, draws from both Icheiser's (1943) discussion of unconscious processes of interpretation and Michotte's (1946/1963) view that causality can be experienced immediately and directly. A consideration of the many individuals and ideas that have shaped contemporary attribution theory is beyond the scope of this chapter. 2 Therefore, this consideration of the past of attribution theory begins with Heider.

Heider is regarded as the father of attribution theory (Jones, 1985) and with good reason. Heider's (1944, 1958) insights laid the foundation for much of the research and theory in attribution. Consider three of Heider's ideas that have contributed to attribution theory. First, Heider suggested that when people view behavior, they want to understand the stable causes of the behavior so they can predict future behavior. He wrote:

-211-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Cognitive Social Psychology: The Princeton Symposium on the Legacy and Future of Social Cognition
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 503

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.