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Soc 319: Sociological Approaches to Social Psychology. Thursday February 26, 2009 Attribution Theory (cont’d) & Attitudes. I. Attribution Theory. What is It? 1. Naïve scientist B. Dispositional vs. Situational Attributions

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Soc 319: Sociological Approaches to Social Psychology

Thursday February 26, 2009

Attribution Theory (cont’d)

& Attitudes

i attribution theory
I. Attribution Theory
  • What is It?

1. Naïve scientist

B. Dispositional vs. Situational Attributions

1. Subtractive Rule

C. Covariation Principle (Kelley)

1. Three sources of behavior

a. Actor

b. Object

c. Context

c kelly covariation cont d
C. Kelly Covariation (cont’d)

2. Sources of information for making attribution

a. Consensus

b. Consistency

c. Distinctiveness

3. Examples

kelley s cube e g mcarthur 1972
Kelley’s Cube (e.g., McArthur, 1972)

Is Joe the Comedian funny? Is Mary easily amused? Or is tonight a special event?

d sources of bias in making attributions
D. Sources of Bias in Making Attributions

1. Correspondence bias (Jones 1979)

a. Explanations

2. Actor-observer effect (“You fell, I was pushed”)

a. Explanations

3. Self-serving bias (“I’m good, you’re lucky”)

a. Explanations

e attributions for success and failure
E. Attributions for Success and Failure

1. Dimensions

a. Locus of control

b. Stability

2. Combinations

a. Internal/stable = Ability (your ability at logic & reasoning)

b. Internal/unstable = Effort (how many hours you studied the LSAT guide)

c. External/stable = Task difficulty (how difficult the test is)

d. External/unstable = Luck

attributions for success and failure
Attributions for Success and Failure

Source: Weiner et al., 1972

f consequences of success failure attributions
F. Consequences of Success & Failure Attributions
  • Such attributions may affect subsequent achievement behaviors and motivation; future achievement expectancies; persistence at similar tasks; pride or shame felt following success or failure.

a. Optimistic attribution style. Negative outcomes attributed external, unstable and specific causes; and positive outcomes to internal, stable, global causes.

b. Pessimistic attribution style. Negative outcomes attributed to internal, stable, and global forces. (I’m a bad person); positive events in terms of external, unstable, and specific causes.

i attitudes
I. Attitudes

A. Definitions

1. General: “an attitude is a predisposition to respond to a particular object in a generally favorable or unfavorable way.”

2. Tripartite approaches to attitude

a. Affective: + or - evaluation (like/dislike) of object

  • “Cigarette smoke is smelly and disgusting.”

b. Behavioral: predisposition to respond or a behavioral tendency towards the object.

  • “I do not and would never smoke.”

c. Cognitive: beliefs about object

  • “Smoking causes cancer and emphysema.”
b why attitudes are important
B. Why attitudes are important
  • Among most “distinctive and indispensable” topics in social psych (Allport 1954).
  • An important indicator of social and normative change.
  • Early social psychological research presumed attitude towards a given object must influence actions towards that object.
    • e.g., political polls, marketing polls, fertility aspirations.
  • The relationship between attitudes and behaviors varies:
    • Strength of relationship contingent on properties of attitude, person, and social context.
c how we develop attitudes
C. How we develop attitudes

1. Instrumental conditioning

a. Bennington College study (Newcomb 1943)

2. Classical conditioning

3. Observational learning

d measurement of attitudes
D. Measurement of Attitudes

1. Direct or self-reported measures

a. Single items

b. Likert scale

c. Semantic differential (Osgood, Suci, Tannenbaum 1975)

2. Indirect methods

a.Wrong number technique

b. Lost letter technique


Examples of self-reported attitude scales

  • Semantic differential (evaluation, potency, activity)
    • “Smokers are…

Good +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 Bad

Clean +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 Dirty

  • Likert scale: Please indicate whether you strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, or disagree strongly.”
    • “I believe that cigarette smoking should be banned from all public places.”
    • “Americans should be free to smoke whenever and wherever they like.”
e structure of attitudes
E. Structure of attitudes

Vertical structure

Horizontal structure


Structure of Attitudes

Vertical Structure ↓

Primitive Belief:

I follow God’s


Horizontal Structure→

Premarital sex

leads to promiscuity.

Promiscuity spreads


Premarital sex

causes pregnancy.

Teen pregnancies

ruin girls’ lives.

The Bible says


sex is wrong.

Premarital sex is


f how attitudes change over time
F. How Attitudes Change Over Time
  • 1. Age effect: how one’s chronological age affects some attitude (e.g., maturation or developmental effects)
  • 2. Cohort effect: how membership in a birth cohort affects some attitude (e.g., how boomers and Gen Xers differ)
  • 3. Period effect: how a historical moment affects some attitude, for all people at that moment (e.g. if 2002 differs from 2000, it could be a “9-11” effect)

Are Baby Boomers really more politically liberal the Gen Xers (or Gen Y)?

Anti-war protest, 1968


Important questions to ask

  • Were Baby Boomers more likely than members of other birth cohorts to also protest in 1978, and 1988, and 1998…. It yes, then we would believe they are a distinct cohort.
  • Were most protesters in 1968 teenagers? If not, then perhaps protests were a period effect.
  • Are most protests in 1968, and 1978… and 2006 led by young adults? If yes, then we would say participation in protests reflects an age effect.