Attributions

Attributions are inferences generated by people when they try to explain reasons for events, the behavior of others, and their own behavior. Attributions may be internal (dispositional), based on something within a person, or external (situational), based on something outside a person. A student who wins an art contest may decide it is because of ability (internal attribution) or because the judges are friends of her or his parents (external attribution). The tendency to overuse internal attributions (such as blaming an adolescent driver rather than road conditions for a car accident) is called the fundamental attribution error. Another type of attribution error, called self‐serving bias, is described as the predisposition to attribute successes to abilities and efforts and failures to external, situational causes. Bernard Weiner, in his study of attributions made concerning success or failure, suggested that both internal and external attributions may be based on stability (that is, an internal factor may be deemed either stable or unstable) and controllability (the factor may be deemed either controllable or uncontrollable).