Describe the role of situational

Describe the role of situational and dispositional factors in explaining behavior

Attribution theory

Attribution theory (Heider 1958) is based on the assumption that people are naive scientists who try to explain observable behavior. An essential feature of the original attribution theory is a fundamental distinction about internal and external causes of behavior.

Attribution theory is based on the assumption that people:

  • tend to look for causes and reasons for other people’s behavior because they feel that there are motives behind most of their own behavior
  • are “intuitive psychologists” who construct their own causal theories of human behavior
  • construct causal theories because they want to be able to understand, predict, and control the environment around them.

Why attributions?



  • People seem to have a pervasive need for causal explanations because this makes the world more predictable.
  • Most cultures have constructed causal explanations for the origin and meaning of life, (e.g. in myths and religions).
  • The tendency to see motives and dispositions behind human actions may be so automatic that people sometimes find it difficult to override it even where motives and dispositions don’t really apply (e.g. when people attribute motives to objects in computer games or believe in fate or witchcraft).