Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error Page: 20
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Morran, 1997; Gilibert & Banovic, 2009) and college students (Riggio & Garcia, 2009). Thus, it
is important to first determine whether or not, and to what extent the FAE is broadly at play
among clinicians and clinicians-in-training so that subsequent interventions can be implemented.
The Present Study
The FAE is a mistake made in everyday interactions when people mistakenly attribute the
actions of another to dispositional attributes of that person (Ross, 1977; Jones & Harris, 1967).
This mistake ignores the contextual factors that influence why a person behaved in a given way.
Interestingly, individuals are generally quite good at recognizing the power of the situation in
affecting their own ways of behaving. In stark contrast, research has found that even when given
a good understanding of contextual factors which have limited another person's freedom to
choose her behavior, observers will persist in assigning dispositional causes (Ross, Amabile, &
Despite the fact that many approaches to psychology focus at least equally on both
dispositional and contextual factors, applied psychology too has fallen prey to the FAE,
conceptualizing and diagnosing client struggles as results of dispositions and personalities.
Diagnostic work is the norm in mental health services and regarded as pre-cursor to appropriate
treatment, although there is little empirical support showing a link between appropriate diagnosis
and positive therapeutic outcome (Rashid & Ostermann, 2009). Furthermore, a key component
of clinical training is familiarization with the DSM and the use of assessment measures and
techniques to label clients with a myriad of diagnoses. The mere mention of certain diagnostic
categories (e.g., Axis II diagnoses) can negatively impact the course of treatment by stigmatizing
the mental health worker's attitude towards the client (Netwon-Howes, Weaver, and Tyrer, 2008).
Worse still, pathologizing terminology has been found to alter the decision making of clinicians
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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/m1/26/: accessed February 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .