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Causal Attribution and Social Judgment. Back to construal. Misunderstandings across genders—the case of unwanted sexual advances. Back to construal. Misunderstandings across cultures—the Hainan island incident-- collision of Chinese and US jets in 2001. Apology diplomacy

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back to construal
Back to construal
  • Misunderstandings across genders—the case of unwanted sexual advances
back to construal1
Back to construal
  • Misunderstandings across cultures—the Hainan island incident-- collision of Chinese and US jets in 2001
  • Apology diplomacy
  • Different cultural perceptions
  • Causal Attribution—how we make sense of other peoples’ behaviour
  • Self-knowledge—how we make sense of who we are and our own behaviour
  • Social Judgment—strategies, errors and biases in social decision making
Optimistic attributional style predicts future physical health

Even controlling for earlier health

why attribution matters
Why Attribution Matters

Attribution –

Explanatory style -

why attribution matters1
Why Attribution Matters

Optmistic attributional style

Pessimistic attributional style

optimistic attributional style predicts
Optimistic attributional style predicts
  • Academic achievement
  • Physical health
  • Longevity
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Likelihood of being elected to office
attributional biases
Attributional Biases
  • Fundamental attribution error:overestimating internal factors and underestimating external factors when explaining other people’s behaviour
    • “Castro Study”
attributional biases1
Attributional Biases
  • Fundamental attribution error:
    • Anxious public speaker
    • Friendly saleswoman
    • Talkative talk show host
    • Deranged suicide terrorist
research shows suicide bombers are not
Research shows Suicide Bombers are not…
  • Mentally ill
  • Suicidal
  • Poor
  • Suffering from personality disorders
  • But they are: unmarried young adult men
  • Better explanation: group dynamics (recruitment) and popular support for suicide attacks
Study 1: Palestinian Representative Sample, 1999 (N=1151)

Ginges, Hansen, Norenzayan, 2009

Support for “martyrdom attacks”

Regular attenders 1.8 times more likely to support

Wald = 6.42 , 95% CI for OR = 1.16--3.02, P=0.01

No independent effect of prayer frequency

Control variables: prayer frequency, gender, economic satisfaction, education, refugee status, support for Islamic state

Study 2: Palestinian University Student Sample 2006 (N=719)

Agreement that “Islam encourages or requires martyrdom attacks”

Regular attenders 3.1 times more likely to support

Wald = 8.473, 95% CI for OR= 1.45--6.47, P=0.004

No independent effect of prayer frequency

Controls: prayer frequency, gender, economic satisfaction, education, refugee status and identification with Islamist Palestinian organizations

The tombstone of Baruch Goldstein which describes him as “murdered as a martyr of God”. On the 25th of February, 1994 Goldstein died while killing 29 Muslims at prayer, and injuring 60 others, in the “Cave of the Patriarchs”, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews located in Hebron, the West Bank


10 nation bbc survey of religious beliefs
10-Nation BBC Survey of Religious Beliefs
  • Mexico (Catholic)
  • Great Britain (Protestant)
  • Russia (Orthodox)
  • India (Hindu)
  • Indonesia (Muslim)
  • Israel (Jewish)


52.7% female

age 18 to over 55

Variation in SES & income

Major religious groups

Joint agreement with:

1) “ I am willing to die for my God (beliefs)”

2) “I blame other religions for the problems of the world”

Controls: age, sex,

SES, education,

human dev index

Odds of supporting combative martyrdom

attributional biases2
Attributional Biases
  • Fundamental attribution error:explanations
    • Perceptual:
    • Cognitive:
    • Motivational:
    • Cultural:
cultural differences in causal attributions
Cultural differences in causal attributions

Sports articles: US newspapers, more dispositional attributions

Hong Kong newspapers, more situational attributions

Cultural differences disappeared for editorials

Lee, Hallahan, & Herzog, 1996

The dilemma of the innocent victim
  • JWB allows individuals to maintain a sense of purpose and control—bad things couldn’t happen to me
  • Injustice in the world is a perceived threat
  • Outcomes reflect personal traits – more FAE
  • One pernicious consequence: blaming victims
just world beliefs lerner miller 1978
Just World Beliefs(Lerner & Miller, 1978)

Just-world beliefs-

  • “By and large, people deserve what they get in life”
  • “Basically, the world is a just place”
  • “People who do their job will rise to the top”
  • “People who meet with misfortune have often brought it on themselves”
just world beliefs
Just World Beliefs

Blaming the victim—experiments by Lerner & colleagues

  • Participants watch another person suffer (victim)
  • Restore Justice Condition: Participant (or someone else) can help the victim
  • JWB Condition: participant (or someone else) cannot help the victim
  • Outcome:
  • Results:
just world beliefs1
Just World Beliefs

Victim derogation is less likely

Who believes in a just world?

just world beliefs summary clarifications
Just World Beliefs: Summary & Clarifications
  • When one believes in just world
  • AND the victim cannot be helped = MORE victim blaming
  • Not about self helping victim (empathy)
  • Not about perceived competence of the victim (VB even when victim is “randomly assigned” to be a victim)
attributional biases3
Attributional Biases
  • Actor-observer effect:
  • Example: perceptions in conflict
    • Explanations:
    • 1)
    • 2)
attributional biases4
Attributional Biases
  • Self-serving bias:
self knowledge
  • How and how much do we know ourselves?
  • Barriers to self-knowledge
  • Conscious vs. unconscious self-knowledge
  • Strategies for self-knowledge
escape from the self
Escape from the Self
  • Our defenses stop us from knowing ourselves, esp. undesirable aspects
  • We escape self-awareness through
    • Defensive strategies (suppression, denial)
    • Addictions: alcohol and drug abuse, sex, eating, TV, suicide, etc.
    • Work, hobbies, other people
self knowledge1
  • We may have limited ability to know ourselves
  • Ways into self-knowledge
    • Introspection
    • Observing our own behaviour
    • Learning about how others see us
  • Look inward to observe
    • 1) Feelings, thoughts, desires
    • 2) Reasons behind our actions
  • More successful with 1) then 2)
  • The causes behind our tendencies are not readily visible—psychological research better way to know this
introspection do we know the causes of our behavior
Introspection--do we know the causes of our behavior?
  • Confabulation: studies with split-brain patients (Gazzaniga & Ledoux)
  • Pantyhose study (Nisbett & Wilson)
introspection do we know the causes of our behavior1
Introspection--do we know the causes of our behavior?
  • Confabulation: studies with split-brain patients (Gazzaniga & Ledoux)
  • Pantyhose study (Nisbett & Wilson)
  • Cognitive dissonance studies, studies of discrimination—peoples explanations of their own behaviour have little to do with observed causes
observing our own behaviour
Observing our own behaviour
  • Self perception theory:
how others see us
How Others See Us
  • Our defenses prevents us from wanting to know ourselves
  • But others who know us well can see through these defenses
  • They can also be good observers of our behaviour
  • Ex: my colleague’s hostility in the late afternoon
strategies that facilitate self knowledge
Strategies that facilitate self-knowledge
  • Self-acceptance (less defensiveness)
  • Connecting with our feelings and observing our thoughts without identifying with them
  • Find out how knowledgeable others see us
  • Visualizing our reactions to future situations
  • Psychological research (esp. for reasons behind our actions)
thin slicing how first impressions matter
“Thin slicing”: How first impressions matter
  • The statue that didn’t look right (see Gladwell, Blink)
  • First impression in dates, job interviews, consumer choices, …
thin slicing how first impressions matter1
“Thin slicing”: How first impressions matter
  • Judging personality traits (Willis & Todorov, 2006)
thin slicing how first impressions matter2
“Thin slicing”: How first impressions matter
  • Teacher evaluations (Ambady & Rosenthal, 1993)
    • 10, 5, 2 sec. long videotape of prof’s teaching
    • …predicted student evaluations at the end of term
thin slicing how first impressions matter3
“Thin slicing”: How first impressions matter
  • Do people agree on first impressions?
    • Yes
  • The 1 million $ chicken-egg question:
    • 1) Is the (often biased) first impression coloring longer term judgment? Or
    • 2) accurately perceiving what’s there takes only seconds?
d Prop. of correctly predicted soccer games as a function of expertise and thought, Exp 1 (Dijksterhuis et al 2009)

Immed: 20s Consc: 2m Unconsc: 2m distr.

heuristics in social judgment1
Heuristics in Social Judgment
  • Representativeness heuristic-
heuristics in social cognition
Heuristics in Social Cognition
  • Availability Heuristic:
the statistics
The statistics
  • By number of deaths:
    • Deaths due to car transportation: 40,000/year
    • Deaths due to airline transportation: 200/year
  • By number of passengers
    • Car: 1/6800 deaths per year
    • Airline: 1/1.6 million per year
  • Controlling for distance covered
    • 10-40 times more likely to die driving than flying
the statistics1
The statistics
  • But media coverage is incredibly skewed:
    • 0.02 cancer stories/1000 cancer deaths
    • 1.7 murder stories/1000 homicides
    • 2.3 AIDS stories/1000 AIDS deaths
    • 138 plane crash stories/1000 airplane deaths
social cognition conclusions
Social Cognition: Conclusions
  • Naïve realism: belief that one’s own perspective reflects objective reality, whereas others are biased
  • People are not objective observers of the social world; they construe their world in particular ways–heuristics and self-protective defenses to make sense of the social world
  • These ways of construal have consequences (health, decisions, conflict,…)