Attribution Theory

An attempt to explain the ways we judge people differently, depending on the meaning we attribute to a behavior, such as determining whether an individuals behavior is internally or externally caused.

The Theory suggests that when we observe an individual’s behaviour, we attempt to determine whether the behaviour was internally or externally caused. That determination depends largely on three factors as below:

  1. Distinctiveness
  2. Consensus
  3. Consistency

Internally caused behaviours are those an observer believes to be under the personal behavioural control of another individual. Thus, internally caused behaviors are said to be within control of an individual.

Externally caused behaviours are those an observer believes that the situation forced the person to behave in a particular manner. Thus, externally caused behaviours are said to be outside the direct control of an individual.

Distinctiveness refers to whether an individual displays different behaviors in different situations. Incase, the behaviour is distinct every time, probably, it is internal, however, incase it is not, the same is due to external factors.

Consensus means everyone who faces a similar situation would have reacted in a similar manner. Incase everyone reacts the same manner, it is said to externally driven if not, then its internally driven.

Consistency means there is a pattern of consistency in the behavior. Incase the consistency is high, it is attributed to internal factors, if not, the same is attributed to external factors.


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