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Attributional Processes – Attributing Behavior to Persons or Situations (PSY)

by Tarry Ahuja, MD
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    00:00 Okay let’s talk about attributing behavior to a person’s situations.

    00:05 While new around individuals you tend to act in a certain way.

    00:10 And there are certain situations will change as a way in which you act.

    00:13 Let’s take a look at some of those scenarios and what impacts at.

    00:17 There is a process that we call Attribution Process or Attribution Theory.

    00:22 That does attempts to explain how individuals view behavior of themselves and others.

    00:27 Individuals attribute to behavior to two things: First, Dispositional attribution, which is internal, causes.

    00:34 Things like attitude, mood, ability or personality.

    00:38 And then, there is things that are outside or external causes we say situational attribution.

    00:42 And this is an outside factors that the actor has really has no control over.

    00:46 We are saying the actor individual and sociology lot of times you use that term actor.

    00:53 What determines whether we attribute behavior to internal vs. external causes? One would be Consistency, is this behavior consistent with previous behavior? Is this something that is happen in the past? That lets say, “That yeah, this is typically how they act or this is not like them.” Versus distinctiveness, is this behavior toward everyone or just you? And then Consensus, is this behavior shared with everyone around you? So say for example, you are at a coffee shop, and you run in to somebody that you know.

    01:26 And if that person just blazes right by and doesn’t say hello.

    01:29 Now, you go through this process and say, “What’s Dave’s problem? Why did he not say hi to me? He always says, hi to me.” So now we are looking at consistency. Is this behavior consistent with previous behavior? We all know Dave always says, hi.

    01:43 And then, we look at distinctiveness. Is this behavior towards everyone or just you? Is that as watching walk by, he says hi to other people. You like wait a second.

    01:51 And then it says, is this behavior shared with everyone around you? Did he not talk to anybody and just go running into the back? So let me start getting into well, why it that happen? That’s the next phase.

    02:03 But at first we’re looking at those three components.

    02:06 So we see the observation of the behavior.

    02:11 We look at consistency, distinctiveness and consensus.

    02:13 And then you have the attribution of causes the internal and the external.

    02:18 Fundamental attribution error is when our analysis of someone’s behavior is incorrect.

    02:23 So if we said, “Well, Dave… what’s wrong with Dave? He is such a dink.

    02:31 I am so unhappy with him, I don’t like him. I don’t want to talk to him because he didn’t say Hi to me.” Well we are not saying that his behavior is reflecting -- We are taking his behavior reflecting that to his personality.

    02:42 We are saying he is not a nice person. I’m unhappy with him.

    02:45 Was that really appropriate? Was that fair? Was that correct? Or we don’t know because who knows what was out with Dave.

    02:51 Maybe Dave really have to go to the bathroom. Maybe he didn’t see you.

    02:55 Maybe there is something wrong and he is something quite upset.

    02:57 Maybe he is about to throw up.

    02:59 I don’t like that he wants to stop you and chat with you.

    03:00 He is thinking I going to get to the bathroom and he is running through the coffee shop, right.

    03:04 So in this area we tendto underestimate the impact of the situation and overestimate the impact of the personality.

    03:10 So I’m saying, everything is wrong with Dave but I am looking, what was the actual situation? I am not thinking, does he have to pee in his pants? Is he about to throw up? And what’s wrong with him? I am thinking, “Dave, he is so not nice. I am so – he is so rude. I don’t like him.

    03:24 Again, going to personality and not the situation.

    03:27 So we assumed that people are how they act. And that’s not always the truth.

    03:33 I am not saying that everybody is faking at all the time.

    03:35 I’m just saying that we make that leap in that certain action doesn’t always necessarily reflect there personality, okay.

    03:43 Or is it a complete representation in their personality.

    03:46 So somebody who is really nice doesn’t mean that they are bad people.

    03:51 It probably means that they are nice people. But we can’t say unpleasantly that because that they are nice that they are amazing people, right.

    03:57 Let’s take a look at something called the Actor–observer bias.

    04:01 And that’s kind of what we are referring to here.

    04:03 So the first to the tendency to blame our actions on the situation and blame the actions of others on personality.

    04:09 Let’s use the example of when you are driving. And you cut somebody off.

    04:17 In that situation, we are saying, you clearly cut somebody off.

    04:22 You know you cut somebody off. And what you say is “Oh man, I have no choice; the road is getting kind of narrow that’s why I have to quickly move over.

    04:31 The guy, who is behind you, who you just cut off, do you think he is saying, “Well, I am glad that car in front of you is able to make it into my lane just in time because it’s getting a little bit narrow out there.” Or is he saying, “I can’t believe that guy cut me off. What’s wrong with him? He is such a dink.” right.

    04:46 So in that scenario, me as a driver, who did that cutting off, I’m saying, I have no choice because of the situation. I have to move.

    04:54 I’m a nice guy but the situation force me to play in my hand. I have to cut that car off.

    04:59 And the guy behind you who got cut off, he is saying, he is blaming what just happen on our personality. He is not a good person.

    05:08 He cut me off, okay.

    05:10 Self-serving bias refers to the tendency to attribute successes to ourselves and failures to others or the environment.

    05:17 So you do amazing on the MCAT and you say, “I did this.

    05:21 I studied, I’m intelligent, this is amazing, right.

    05:25 Versus if things don’t fail or sort things don’t work, you sort to fail others saying, “I didn’t pass this exam. You know why, because I ask you to get my magical pencil and you didn’t bring my magic pencil.

    05:35 And that guy over there, he kept snoring during the exam I could not study.

    05:38 It could have been that maybe you didn’t study hard enough or maybe you’re not just that bright.

    05:42 But you are not going to say that.

    05:43 You are going to blame them on the environment, people around you.

    05:46 Now let’s take a look a neither fact which is the Halo effect.

    05:51 This refers to the tendency to believe that the people have inherently good/bad natures rather than looking at individual characteristics.

    05:57 You actually will take one characteristic and make a generalization of an individual.

    06:03 So say for example, you go down to your local coffee shop and there is the clerk there. She is so nice to you and you say, “Oh that Rita, she is so nice.” And then you start to make some extrapolations from that. And you say, “Well, you know what she is probably an amazing mother.” Well how do you able to make that leap? You are saying she is good at the coffee shop ‘cause she gives you an extra cookie on the side.

    06:27 But that doesn’t necessarily mean she is that really a great person and she is an amazing mother.

    06:32 But you are making that leap based on that one characteristic that you have been identified.

    06:37 Another thing that we notice is that those that are physically attractive or dressed well, well put together. We tend to have a different – we attribute different personality of that individual versus of somebody who is not so well put.

    06:50 So you hear this all the time. When you are going through your first interview and you are going to meet somebody for the first time. What do you do? You always try and look at your best. And by doing so, people associate certain characteristics to you.

    07:03 So you are dressed very nice, you are wearing a suit and tie.

    07:06 They going to say, “Wow, he must be successful. He is very smart.

    07:10 or he is probably a nice guy which is why I am trying to wear suit all the time.

    07:15 Even though I am not a nice guy and makes me look a nice guy.

    07:18 Versus say you show up in reap jeans and a rolling stones t-shirt right.

    07:22 Or they are saying, “Oh, okay. Hi, how are you? Versus in the guy in the suit.

    07:26 So this is happen, I am sure to you were before where you are looking great, you feel great.

    07:31 People assume a certain identity.

    07:33 Versus when you are, distinguish in your casual boomy clothes going to grab something from the grocery store and how you feel you are presenting yourself.

    07:40 So really really interesting in how physical appearance can have a huge impact and how you end up presenting yourself.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Attributional Processes – Attributing Behavior to Persons or Situations (PSY) by Tarry Ahuja, MD is from the course Social Thinking.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Enviornment
    2. Attitude
    3. Mood
    4. Personality
    5. Ability
    1. Consistency, distinctiveness, and consensus
    2. Distinctiveness, consensus, and divergence
    3. Reciprocity and lowball technique
    4. Attitude strength, ambivalence, and accessibility
    5. Stable and unstable behavior
    1. Actor-observer bias
    2. Hypocrisy
    3. Self=serving bias
    4. Unstable external attribution
    5. External locus of control
    1. Halo affect
    2. Bias
    3. Generalization
    4. Oversimplification
    5. Physical attractiveness stereotype

    Author of lecture Attributional Processes – Attributing Behavior to Persons or Situations (PSY)

     Tarry Ahuja, MD

    Tarry Ahuja, MD


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