Attribution Theory Definition The process by which persons interpret and pinpoint causes for their own personal and other’s behaviour is the theory of attribution. 1 In this motivational theory, a person always finds a way to explain things, he make inferences on why things or events occur. After explaining the events a person then predicts future events through his inferences. He wants to understand the reasons or causes behind behaviour of people and why events happen. It was first proposed by Fritz Heider in 1958 and further developed by Harold Kelly and Bernard Weiner.
Theories Internal vs. External Attributions Every person observe and analyze things differently thus having different ways of explaining things. The attribution theory proposes that when people observe and analyze things they try to find out whether it is caused internally or externally. 2 Attribution is a three-stage process: (1) Observation of an individual behaviour, (2) Determination whether the behaviour is intentional and (3) Attribution of the observed behaviour to internal or external factors.
Those that are believed that can be personally controlled are called internal attributions while those believed to be caused by outside forces are external attributions. 2 Example of internal attributions are ability, personality, mood, efforts, attitudes or disposition while external attributions are task, other people and luck. 4 Following is an example of an application of this theory is when an employee failed to perform in a given task, a manager tries to explain why this thing happened.
He may attribute this failure to poor efforts made by his subordinate (internal attribute) or he may consider that the given task maybe be too difficult for his employee (external attribute). Consistency, Distinctiveness and Consensus On the other hand, when making a determination between internal and external causes of behaviour, three factors must be considered: (1) consistency, (2) distinctiveness and (3) consensus. 1 Consistency is how frequent a person behaves similarly when faced with the same situations.
Distinctiveness is how different a person behaves when faced with different types of situations. Consensus is when a group of people behaves similarly when faced with the same situation. 2 When a person behaves similarly when faced with same situations, we can say that the consistency is high; if he acts differently every time exposed with the same situation, consistency is low. 3 An example of consistency is the following is when an employee consistently has a low performance when he always assigned in a individual task rather when he is assigned in a group task.
The observed behaviour of the employee wherein there is a high consistency can be attributed to an internal factor which is attitude. When a person behaves differently during different types of situations distinctiveness is high; if he behaves similarly during different situations, distinctiveness is low. 3 An example of distinctiveness is when an honor student gets high grades (same behaviour) in all of his subjects during three consecutive grading periods (different situations).
The observed behaviour of the student wherein there is a low distinctiveness can be attributed to an internal factor which is ability or effort. When the observed behaviour of a group of people is the same in a given situation, consensus is high; if this group behaves differently given a similar situation, consensus is low. 3 An example of distinctiveness is when all students are late in a first period class (consensus is high), the attribution to this behaviour maybe due to an external factor which is traffic caused by a vehicular accident.
Figure 1. Summary of the key elements in attribution theory. 2 Errors and Biases in Attribution The difference on how every person thinks, perceive and judge things may lead to some biases. One may consider the greater attributes of certain occurrences to external factors rather than internal factors or the other way around, well on the actual these considerations may not be correct all the time. Fundamental Attribution Error and Self-serving Bias
Fundamental attribution error is when people have the tendency to consider the influence of external factors more than considering the influence of internal or personal factors. 2 An example of this is when we attribute the promotion of an officemate to perfect timing or luck rather than to his own efforts and perseverance. Self-serving bias is overestimating the influence of internal factors or personal traits rather than assigning external or situational factors to certain occurrences.
When a person attributes his personal success to his own traits or internal and his misfortunes to bad luck or external factors, he is thus committing a self-serving bias. 1 Self-fulfilling Prophecy Perceiver’s expectations for a person will cause the perceiver to treat the person perceived differently and the person perceived will respond in a way that confirms the initial expectations. 1 Example of this is when a teacher thinks that his student will do well during his exam so he spends more time with this student and coaches him well, in return the student will get a high score in the exam.
Summary Attribution theory is important to management because managers’ and employees’ actions and opinion can be influenced by how they perceive or see the reasons that cause human behaviour given a certain situation. 3 Different attributions of a manager to an employee’s attitude and performance can affect the standing of the employee in the organization. If a manager attributes the employee’s poor performance to lack of effort in performing the assigned task, he may fail the employee or give the employee a low rating during performance appraisals.
On the other hand, if the manager attributes the poor performance to the high level of difficulty of the job, the manager may review and revise the job specifications to lessen the difficulty level of the job. Attribution also affects employee motivation. If an employee attributes the success to external factors, then they may lose motivation since anything that may occur is beyond their control. If an employee attributes success to internal factors like perseverance, then they are expected to have a high motivation for their job.
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Attribution Theory. (2018, Oct 28). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/attribution-theory-2-essay