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Causal Attributions. Internal. External. Ability, Intelligence, Personality Traits. Task difficulty. Stable. Luck, Transitory weather conditions. Effort, Mood. Unstable. Also, there are 2 other dimensions: Global versus Specific. Kelly’s Cube Model of Attribution. The behavior to be

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Causal Attributions



Ability, Intelligence, Personality Traits

Task difficulty


Luck, Transitory weather conditions

Effort, Mood


Also, there are 2 other dimensions: Global versus Specific


Kelly’s Cube Model of Attribution

The behavior to be

explained: Seymore makes

a pass at Lolita



In a classroom

At a party

At work

Sister Mary Teresa


At a bar



Seymore Tom Dick Harry (Consensus)


Kelly’s Cube Model of Attribution (cont.)

Typically, we do not have complete information about people on all three of Kelly’s dimensions. Also, research has shown that the dimension of “consistency” is used quite a bit, whereas “consensus” is not used frequently.


Sue receive an A on the final paper for Professor Adams. Half the class got A’s on this paper, and the other half got B’s. This is the 1st time that Sue has received an A on a paper; in her other courses she has obtained B’s on her papers. On the last paper for this class, Sue also received an A. Why did Sue get an A?

She is an excellent writer Consistency: High or Low

Her teacher is an easy grader Consensus: High or Low

This paper was especially good Distinctiveness: High or Low

Joan received an A on her final paper for Professor Downs. No one else in the class received an A. Joan gets A’s on almost all of her papers she writes in other classes. On the last paper for this class, Joan also received an A. Why did Joan get an A?

She is an excellent writer Consistency: High or Low

Her teacher is an easy grader Consensus: High or Low

This paper was especially good Distinctiveness: High or Low


Actor-Observer Effect (Difference)

The actor/observer effect: The tendency to see other people’s behavior as dispositionally caused (e.g., ability, personality), while focusing more on the role of situational factors (e.g., task difficulty, bad luck) when explaining one’s own behavior.


Reasons for the Actor-Observer Difference

  • Perceptual salience: Actors notice the situations around them that influence them to act, while observers notice the actors
  • Information access: Actors have more information about themselves than do observers (e.g., how consistent present behavior is to past behavior)Actor: “That’s the first free throw I’ve missed in 4 games”
  • Motivational bias:Explanations for one’s successes that credit internal, dispositional factors, as opposed to failures, which are explained by external, situational factors (e.g., bad luck)
  • [Self-esteem maintenance; self-presentation reasons]

Observer’s focus is on the actor

Actor’s focus is on the task (the basket)


Quiz Show Game Study (Power of social roles)

Questioner (writes a set of 10 reasonably difficult questions

Contestant (has to answer the questions by the questioner)


Told that this assignment was random; it wasn’t

Ratings of others on a general knowledge rest

  • Questioner perceived as more knowledgeable by contestants and observers

GPA and External Attributions for Failure

Training session

to address issues

facing new student,

How to cope with

Problems, Where to go

for help, etc.

Giving students realistic

reasons for possible poor

1st year performance

(e.g., new setting,

more adjustments, harder


  • Higher GPA
  • Less absenteeism
  • Lower dropout rate
  • Greater satisfaction with school

Attributions in the Sports pages

  • Prevalence of unstable attributions (e.g., effort, lack of focus) for the outcomes of oneself or others
  • Prevalence of internal attributions for success and failure

"We hadn't played a real game in 12 days and that had a lot to do with it,''

--- Iciss Tillis of the Duke Blue Devils Women’s basketball team

"For this fight I had to lose a lot of weight. I wasn't that strong … “

--- Boxer Floyd "Pretty Boy" Mayweather on beating Jr. Jesus Chavez

"He's been putting too much pressure on himself” --- Duke Head Coach ------ Mike Krzyzewski onChris Duhon’s poor play


Attributions in the Sports Pages


  • Success is attributed to internal factors (Self-Enhancement Strategy )
  • Failure is attributed to external factors (Self-Protective Device)
  • Prevalence of internal outcomes for both success and failure (especially unstable ones)
  • Unexpected outcomes lead to a greater number of attributions
  • (e.g., need for greater attributional searching for possible explanations)

Attribution Examples in Sports


  • Internal & Stable
  • "I am the toughest golfer mentally“ -- Tiger Woods after winning 4 straight majors
  • "We have the best coach ever, the most dominant player in the world and the best team” – Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers, on winning 3 straight NBA Titles
  • "I screwed up. It's all on me. I know that. But losing this Masters is not the end of the world” -- Greg Norman on losing a 6-stroke lead
  • Internal & Unstable (most common)
  • "I could not be as aggressive as I wanted to be and kind of flinched a couple of times" -- Golfer Ernie Els on a wrist injury and his 77 final round score
  • -- “It was one of those nights. I felt like I couldn’t miss” – Michael Jordan

Attribution Examples in Sports


External & Stable

"I told my guys after the game this is the most selfish team I've been around from the standpoint of not executing what you try to teach them from day one” –- Indiana Basketball Coach Mike Davis on losing to Pittsburgh

“I knew I was going to have problems against his left-handed boxing''

--- Boxer Michele Piccirillo on losing a match to Cory Spinks

External & Unstable

“That was just more bad luck. It seems like every week, one thing goes wrong, that the bad luck is always on us and the ball never bounces our way” --- USC Quarterback Carson Palmer

"We hadn't played a real game in 12 days and that had a lot to do with it''

--- Iciss Tillis of the Duke’s Women’s basketball team on their poor performance


Attributions for Others – Coding Issue

  • “They played better than us tonight” (External)
  • Versus
  • “We didn’t play very well tonight” (Internal)
  • Although different, do they serve the same attributional purpose?
  • Combination example:
  • “It was not as much what they did as it was what we didn’t do” – Dayton player Brooks Hall on losing to Tulsa in NCAA tourney

Attribution Examples in Sports

Attributions For Others* --Self-Serving Bias?

  • External & Stable
  • "He's probably the best defender I've faced my whole career"
  • -- Indiana guard Tom Coverdale on Pittsburg guard Julius Page after scoring only 6 points in a losing effort
  • External & Unstable
  • “Giguere was just too good tonight" -- Columbus coach Doug MacLeanon referring to Anaheim goalie after a loss
  • “You have to give State credit, they came back out and played a great second half and we did not" -- North Carolina Head Coach John Bunting on losing to N.C. State
  • “… if you're going to beat us, you need to come with your best game for 40 minutes” -- Maryland forward Tahj Holden

Self-Handicapping Behavior

  • Early assumptions:
  • People wish to have accurate information/feedback regarding their abilities
  • B) Role of achievement motivation (high versus low)
  • Definition of self-handicapping strategies; behavior that:
  • Enhance external attributions for failure
  • B) Allows internal attributions for success
  • (e.g., Kelly’s augmentation principle)

Self-Handicapping Behavior (cont.)

  • "Cause" of self-handicapping
  • Non-contingent reinforcement history, especially
  • for success (e.g., Success not due to one’s ability or effort)
  • B) Perception that successful performance cannot likely be repeated
  • The belief that one deserves or has partially earned their success (e.g., due to themselves) has to exist

Self-Handicapping Behavior (cont.)

Insolvable Task-2 (stakes raised)

Insolvable Task



Drug Choice


Ability attributions

Males much more likely to choose impairing drug – even when only they were told of their initial success (private condition)


Males attributed their “success” to ability more than females


Enhancing drug

Impairing drug


Misattribution and Speech Anxiety

Placebo usage ---

a) Cause of one’s arousal is not obvious

b) Misattribution source is salient (obvious, easily observable)

c) Misattribution source is perceived as plausible

Less mistakes made during speech

Subliminal noise to increase anxiety

Giving a speech (anxiety arousing event)

Subliminal noise to decrease anxiety

Accurate information; e.g., it’s common to be anxious

  • Anxiety is partially explained by the noise as well as the person

Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation

Early assumptions:

Intrinsic + Extrinsic = Motivation

Persisted on the task longest after they could quit

No reward

Expected reward

Unexpected reward

Work on enjoyable task

  • Extrinsically rewarding someone who intrinsically enjoys their work may reduce intrinsic motivation levels.

Seligman’s Suggestions

  • A) Allow external attributions for failure (when reasonable)
  • B) Develop strategies for improvement after failure
  • C) Failure is not “the end of the world” (learning experience, feedback)
  • D) Allow development of personal control in early years of life

The six major (universal) emotional expressions

  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Anger
  • Happiness
  • Surprise

What two emotions are hard to distinguish?


Non-Verbal Communication

1) Emblems: Gestures that have specific meanings within a given culture (e.g., “OK” sign)

2) Illustrators: Gestures that emphasize a point

3) Affect displays: Basic emotional expressions (e.g., sad, happy)

4) Regulators: Gestures that help to foster communication (e.g., opening mouth to indicate one wants to speak, nodding head in agreement, raising eyebrows to indicate interest)

5) Adaptors: Nonverbal behavior (often habitual) that occur under stressful situations (e.g., twirling hair, tapping fingers)


Non-Verbal Communication (cont.)

Eye contact:

Length of gaze (too little, just right, too much)

  • Personal space:
  • Relationship to the other person
  • Cultural differences
  • Status differences (high status = more personal space)
  • Touching:
  • Cultural differences
  • Gender Differences
  • Status differences

Deception Quotes

"Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well.” --- Samuel Butler

"That which has been believed by everyone, always and everywhere, has every chance of being false." --- Paul Valéry

"Some lies are so well disguised to resemble truth, that we should be poor judges of the truth not to believe them ."

--- Anonymous

"There's only one way to find out if a man is honest; Ask him. If he says yes, you know he's a crook." --- Groucho Marx

“It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”  --- Noël Coward


Deception Quotes (cont.)

"...In spite of the hardness and ruthlessness i thought i saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word...."

--- Neville chamberlain, 9/15/38

(Writing to his sister after

Meeting with Hitler)

When the situation seems to be exactly what it appears to be, the closest likely alternative is that the situation has been completely faked; when fakery seems extremely evident, the next most probable possibility is that nothing faked is present."

--- Erving Goffman,

Strategic Interaction

"The relevant framework is not one of morality but of survival. At every level, from brute camouflage to poetic vision, the linguistic capacity to conceal, misinform, leave ambiguous, hypothesize, invent is indispensable to the equilibrium of human consciousness and to the development of man in society..." --- George Steiner, After Babel

If falsehood, like truth, had only one face, we would be in better shape. For we would take as certain the opposite of what the liar said. But the reverse of truth has a hundred thousand shapes and a limitless field.

--- Montaigne, Essays


Cues to Detecting Deception

Do liars give shorter answers?

Do liars touch themselves more?

Do liars pause more before answering?

Do liars talk slower?

Do liars shift more?

Do liars smile less?

Do liars use less eye contact?

  • Facial: Hard to interpret accurately because people may display
  • blends of multiple affects simultaneously; easier to control
  • when lying(often the worse indicator)
  • Verbal (what is said, how things are said)
  • Body: Difficult to control; “leakage can occur (often the best
  • indicator of deception)

Answers to previous questions ---

Do liars give shorter answers? Perception = No; Actual = Yes

Do liars touch themselves more? Perception = No; Actual = Yes

Do liars pause more before answering? Perception = Yes; Actual = No

Do liars talk slower? Perception = Yes; Actual = No

Do liars shift more? Perception = Yes; Actual = No

Do liars smile less? Perception = Yes; Actual = No

Do liars use less eye contact? Perception = Yes; Actual = No


Deception Studies

Smugglers going through customs:

Customs Agents

Lay people

No differences between the two groups in accuracy of identifying smugglers

Those with poor no-verbal skills, young, lower SES selected

Taped interview of people lying or telling the truth

Police officers

52% correct


54% correct

Police officers



SS officers

Taped interview of people lying or telling the truth

Best; use of non-verbal cues



Physical attractiveness

Motivation to lie