Attribution : The process through which we seek to determine the causes behind other’s behavior is known as attribution. We examine others behavior for clues as to the causes behind what they say and do, then reach our decision. The kind of information we consider depends on the specific question we want to answer.
For instance, one basic issue is: Did another person’s actions stem from internal causes (e.g, their own traits, intentions, or motives) or from external causes (e.g. luck or factors beyond their control in a given situation). To answer this question, we often focus on information about
1. Consensus – whether other people behave in the same way as the person we’re considering;
2. Consistency – whether this person behaves in the same manner over the time; and
3. Distinctiveness – whether this person behaves in the same way in different situations.
If very few people act like this person (consensus is low), this person have behaved in the same way over time (consistency is high), and this person behaves in much the same manner in many situations (distinctiveness is slowly), we conclude that the behavior stems from internal causes.
This is the kind of person the individual is and will probably remain. For instance, we would probably draw this conclusion about a student who got up and criticized a professor harshly in class if no other student did this, if this student criticized the professor on other occasions, and if this student also criticized other professors, waiter persons in restaurants and so on. In contrast, if all three factors (consensus, consistency and distinctiveness) are high, we are more likely to conclude that people behave as they do because of external causes – for instance, that they may have no choice, (Kelly, 1972). We’d reach this conclusion if many other students also criticized the professor, if this student criticized the same professor on other occasions and if the student did not criticize other professors.