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Discuss Two Errors in Attributions. By Mr Daniel Hansson. Questions for Discussion. Do humans have a need of finding causes of everything? Why or why not? How reliable are humans’ ability at making judgments of causation?. Important definitions.

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questions for discussion
Questions for Discussion
  • Do humans have a need of finding causes of everything? Why or why not?
  • How reliable are humans’ ability at making judgments of causation?
important definitions
Important definitions
  • Attribution (psychology): How individuals explain causes of events, other’s behavior, and their own behavior
  • Attribution error: When individuals make faulty assumptions of the causes of events, other’s behavior, and their own behavior
examples of errors of attribution
Examples of Errors of attribution
  • Fundamental attribution error
  • Illusory correlation
Milgram’s experiment was

inspired by trial of Adolf

Eichmann. During World

War II, Eichmann was in

charge of all trains that

would carry Jews to the

death camps in Poland and

Hungary. As his defense,

Eichmann claimed that he

was merely following

orders. Why do you think he

acted like he did?

fundamental attribution error fae
Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE)
  • To make internal, dispositional attributions for others’ behavior rather than situational ones, even when there may be equally convincing evidence for both types of cause (e.g. thinking that Jim Carrey is as crazy as the characters he is playing)
  • May be due to the tendency of western culture to hold individuals accountable for their behavior or because we have too little information about the person’s situation
research supporting fae
Research Supporting FAE
  • Jones & Harris (1967): Subjects read pro and anti- Fidel Castro essays.When the subjects were told that the writers freely choose their subject, they were more likely to rate the writer as having a positive attitude to Castro. However, if they were told that the writer’s opinion were chosen at random they still rated the writer as having a positive attitude to Castro.
research supporting fae1
Research Supporting FAE
  • Lee et. al. (1977): University students were randomly allocated to one of three roles: a game show host, contestants of the game show or members of the audience. The game show host constructed the questions and the audience watched the game show through the series of questions. When the game show was over, the audience were asked to rank the intelligence of the people who had taken part. They consistently ranked the game show host as the most intelligent.
illusory correlation
Illusory correlation
  • When people tend to overestimate a link between two variables or see a relationship where no relationship exists (e.g. handwriting and personality, the end of the world and the year 2012, palm lines and personality, astrology sign and personality, stereotypes)
illusory correlation1
Illusory correlation
  • Illusory correlation is thought to occur because we are more likely to form connections between factors that easily comes to our mind and are easily imaginable (e.g. rare events)
  • Illusory correlation can also be explained by confirmation bias. Individuals tendto favor information that confirms their hypotheses and disregard information that doesn’t
research supporting the illusory correlation phenomenon
Research supporting the illusory correlation phenomenon
  • Chapman & Chapman (1967): Beginning clinicians observed draw-a-person test drawing randomly paired (unknowingly to participants) with symptom statements of patients. Although the relationship between symptoms and drawings were absent, participants rated a high associative strength between symptom and drawing characteristics (e.g. paranoia and drawing big eyes)
research explaining illusory correlation
Research explaining illusory correlation

Hamilton & Gifford (1976): Hamilton & Gifford

hypothesized that rare events are more likely to be linked

because they are more memorable. In order to test this

hypothesis, participants read a series of favorable (e.g.

visited a sick friend at the hospital) and unfavorable

statements (e.g cheated on an exam) of individuals from a

majority group or a minority group. The unfavorable

statements were more rare than the favorable

statements. In accordance with Hamilton and Gifford’s

hypothesis, participants were more likely to associate

unfavorable statements with the minority group when asked

about their first impression of the majority and minority


evaluation of concepts strengths
Evaluation of concepts - Strengths
  • Empirical support
  • Can be supported by schema theory
  • Usefulness (reliability of diagnosis, formation of stereotypes)
evaluation of concepts limitations
Evaluation of concepts - Limitations
  • Methodological problems of the studies (e.g. generalisability, ecological validity)
  • Cross-cultural studies in India (Miller 1984) and Japan (Weiss 1984) show that the fundamental attribution error is less common in collectivistic cultures
  • Details of the processes underlying illusory correlation are still largely unknown