Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error Page: 15
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ordinary life. Clearly, people's behaviors are strongly influenced by the environment they find
Attribution theory suggests that people interpret observed behavior of another individual
as indicative of character or disposition. Attribution theory further assumes that when behavior is
explicitly constrained by contextual factors that this attribution process should be less salient.
However, the tendency to ascribe dispositional causes even to behavior under constraint has been
termed the fundamental attribution error (FAE; Ross, 1977). The FAE was discovered by Jones
and Harris (1967) in their well-known study of attributions. Jones and Harris found that
regardless of whether an individual chose to write in favor or opposition to Fidel Castro, or if she
were made to do so, people perceived the writer's true feelings towards Castro as consistent with
whatever she wrote. This finding countered the previous logic of attribution theory that the extent
to which an action was apparently freely chosen would determine how much dispositional
attribution was made. The FAE has become a core concept in social psychology, a way of
understanding the way that people understand - or misunderstand, as the case may be - one
Similar to findings by Jones and Harris (1967), Ross, Amabile, and Steinmetz (1977)
found that people favor dispositional explanations in favor of contextual ones even when they are
aware of restrictive contextual constraints. In their experiment, Ross, Amabile, and Steinmets
had participants view people in conversation. Some of the individuals had been assigned to
create difficult questions for the other to answer. Resultantly, the participants told to create
difficult questions appeared more intelligent than their counterpart. Despite being aware that
some of the people they were watching had prepared intentionally difficult questions,
participants were more likely to rate the ones who had created hard questions more favorably.
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Schmalz, Jonathan. Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error, thesis, December 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc103389/m1/21/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .