Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error Page: 30
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This study examined the potential influence the presence versus non-presence of an often
stigmatized diagnosis - borderline personality disorder - could have on the dispositional or
situational attributions made by psychology trainees. Furthermore, of interest was whether the
interactive effects of contextual information and a diagnosis of BPD on clinical attributions
would suggest the commission of the fundamental attribution error (FAE). Lastly, this study
intended to determine if the theoretical orientations of psychology trainees may lead to
significantly disparate dispositional or situational attributions. The outcomes of these research
questions and potential implications of the findings are discussed along with the practical and
conceptual limitations of the present research and considerations for future study of attributions
and therapeutic outcomes.
Hypothesis 1: Main Effect of Diagnosis
Participants in this study were either presented with a diagnosis of BPD or given no
referent to a diagnosis prior to watching the scripted video interaction and subsequently
formulating responses regarding situational or dispositional attributions. No statistical, or
practical, significance of the presence of a BPD diagnosis was found in the ANOVA with the
present sample. Although previous research has suggested a significant effect of diagnostic
terminology on attributions (Temerlin, 1969; Langer & Ableson, 1974; Snyder, 1977; Batson,
O'Quin, & Pych, 1982), the present findings strongly suggest that a diagnosis of BPD makes no
significant difference in attribution conceptualization. If these findings are accurate, it offers a
comforting rebuttal to concerns cited in the literature about training models for psychology
students that emphasize the consideration of clinical cases by dispositional inferences, rather
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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/m1/36/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .