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Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Why People play down the Achievements of Others? (1 of 3)

12 Jan

The reason behind this incredible human tendency to belittle the achievements of others can be explained through Weiner’s Attribution Theory. This set of posts shall discuss the three factors (locus of control, stability, and controllability) that influence the way we attribute reasons to everything.

This post shall introduce the first factor, “locus of control” and help us build a real-life connect for this theory. The next post shall introduce the other two factors, and the final post will help you review how you can spice up your trainings and content through the application of this theory and the concepts related to it.

So, put on your protective gear…we are ready to take the plunge!

Photo by Lukjonis

Let’s begin by meeting Sloth and Froth. It’s evening now, and we find them at their homes (different ones of course – I hope I didn’t give you any reason to believe that they were related!) Today, the promotions were announced…Sloth wasn’t promoted (no surprise – thanks to constructivism) and Froth was (of course!)

Here’s what they tell themselves:

Sloth:
Froth got promoted because her boss (a male in this case,) is completely smitten by her.
I wasn’t promoted because my earlier boss, who was reasonable and sweet, got transferred; and now I’ve got to work under this insufferable hag!


Froth:
I got promoted because I am smart and intelligent. It’s my hard work on that project that led to this promotion.
Sloth? He didn’t get promoted because he’s a sloth-ball. He’s a lazy procrastinator, who wouldn’t raise his hand to wipe his nose, hoping that the tissue would fly out of the box and land on his nose.

What do you think? Is their behavior normal? Would you (and I) behave similarly? There’s a good chance that we would…because Attribution theory applies to all of us!
Here’s a quick analysis:

Sloth “attributes” his failure (to get promoted) to “external factors” (replacement of the sweet boss with the bitter pill.) He also “attributes” Froth’s success (in being promoted) to “external factors” (the boss being smitten by her.)
Froth “attributes” her success to “internal factors” (smartness, intelligence, and hard work) and Sloth’s failure too to “internal factors” (being a sloth-ball, and an inveterate procrastinator.)


Thus, for our successes and others’ failures, we do an internal attribution (thus, the locus is internal,) and for our failures and others’ successes, we do an external attribution (with an external locus.)

Internal Attribution (also called “dispositional attribution”) >>> Internal Locus >>> The factors causing “this” are located within me.
External Attribution (also called “situational attribution”) >>> External Locus >>> The factors causing “this” are located outside me.


According to the Attribution theory, the locus of control is one of the three factors that are instrumental in attributions. I hope Sloth and Froth have helped you understand what this factor “locus of control” means.

To simplify matters, we attempt to take all the credit for our successes, and none for our failures; while we try to strip others of the credit for their successes (crediting external factors instead) and credit them with the burden of their failures. This tendency is also known as a “self-serving bias.”

Remember – to shorten a line without erasing, you need to draw a bigger line parallel to it. Fortunately all of our reality exists in our perception, and so as civilized humans – we attempt “improve” our goodness by casting ourselves in better and others in poorer light! So often, without improving our actual skills, we can “perceive” ourselves as bigger, better, stronger, more intelligent than the next person – through an intuitive self-serving bias!

In the next post, we will discuss the two other factors (stability and controllability) that explain the human behavior’s pull-‘em-down-to-hoist-me-up tendency!

The reason behind this incredible human tendency to belittle the achievements of others can be explained through Weiner’s Attribution Theory. This set of posts shall discuss the three factors (locus of control, stability, and controllability) that influence the way we attribute reasons to everything.

This post shall introduce the first factor, “locus of control” and help us build a real-life connect for this theory. The next post shall introduce the other two factors, and the final post will help you review how you can spice up your trainings and content through the application of this theory and the concepts related to it.

So, put on your protective gear…we are ready to take the plunge!
Let’s begin by meeting Sloth and Froth. It’s evening now, and we find them at their homes (different ones of course – I hope I didn’t give you any reason to believe that they were related!) Today, the promotions were announced…Sloth wasn’t promoted (no surprise – thanks to constructivism) and Froth was (of course!)
Here’s what they tell themselves:
Sloth:
Froth got promoted because her boss (a male in this case,) is completely smitten by her.
I wasn’t promoted because my earlier boss, who was reasonable and sweet, got transferred; and now I’ve got to work under this insufferable hag!
Froth:
I got promoted because I am smart and intelligent. It’s my hard work on that project that led to this promotion.
Sloth? He didn’t get promoted because he’s a sloth-ball. He’s a lazy procrastinator, who wouldn’t raise his hand to wipe his nose, hoping that the tissue would fly out of the box and land on his nose.
What do you think? Is their behavior normal? Would you (and I) behave similarly? There’s a good chance that we would…because Attribution theory applies to all of us!
Here’s a quick analysis:
Sloth “attributes” his failure (to get promoted) to “external factors” (replacement of the sweet boss with the bitter pill.) He also “attributes” Froth’s success (in being promoted) to “external factors” (the boss being smitten by her.)
Froth “attributes” her success to “internal factors” (smartness, intelligence, and hard work) and Sloth’s failure too to “internal factors” (being a sloth-ball, and an inveterate procrastinator.)
Thus, for our successes and others’ failures, we do an internal attribution (thus, the locus is internal,) and for our failures and others’ successes, we do an external attribution (with an external locus.)
Internal Attribution (also called “dispositional attribution”) >>> Internal Locus >>> The factors causing “this” are located within me.
External Attribution (also called “situational attribution”) >>> External Locus >>> The factors causing “this” are located outside me.
According to the Attribution theory, the locus of control is one of the three factors that are instrumental in attributions. I hope Sloth and Froth have helped you understand what this factor “locus of control” means. To simplify matters, we attempt to take all the credit for our successes, and none for our failures; while we try to strip others of the credit for their successes (crediting external factors instead) and credit them with the burden of their failures. This tendency is also known as a “self-serving bias.”
Remember – to shorten a line without erasing, you need to draw a bigger line parallel to it. Fortunately all of our reality exists in our perception, and so as civilized humans – we attempt “improve” our goodness by casting ourselves in better and others in poorer light! So often, without improving our actual skills, we can “perceive” ourselves as bigger, better, stronger, more intelligent than the next person – through an intuitive self-serving bias!
In the next post, we will discuss the two other factors (stability and controllability) that explain the human behavior’s pull-‘em-down-to-hoist-me-up tendency!

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