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The Study Of The Ways People Explain Their Own Behavior

2004 words - 9 pages

Causal attribution is the study of the ways people explain their own and other people's behaviour. Many research studies have shown there is a cultural divide between western and non-western countries (Earley, 1993). Non-western countries are described as ‘collectivist’ proposing that people within this culture define themselves as a member of a collective group. The person has their own role within the group with little freedom or personal control over their lives but not necessarily wanting or needing this (Gilovich, Keltner, & Nisbett, 2010). In contrast, western countries are described as individualistic as individuals within this culture strive to be unique, work independently and choose their own path throughout their life. This cultural difference is the paradigm used for the majority of the research discussed in this essay. The fundamental attribution error (FAE) is a key concept which refers to the failure to recognise the importance of situational influences on behaviour as well as the tendency to overemphasise the importance of dispositions (Gilovich et al., 2010). This essay evaluates research which has shown that personality traits are no less important to East Asians than to Americans, but they are understood differently (Norenzayan, Choi, & Nisbett, 2002). This essay also discusses how East Asians emphasise both personal and situational factors in causal attribution, whereas Americans tend to neglect situational factors (Morris & Peng, 1994). Furthermore, how attributions are influenced by: the perceived changeability of personality, holistic and atomistic views (Choi, Dalal, Chu, & Park, 2003) and prior information (Jen & Lien, 2010).

Researchers have investigated whether cultural differences differ the way people make causal attributions. Research has shown individualist cultures have a tendency to refer to personality traits when making causal attributions. In comparison, collectivist cultures are likely to refer to the situation when making causal attributions. An experiment by Miller (1963) demonstrates attributions are influenced by culture and develop with age. Participants in this study were Indian and American adults and children aged: eight, eleven and fifteen. Participants were asked to recall both pro-social and socially deviant behaviour and explain why this behaviour occurred. The results showed American adults explain behaviour by referring to dispositional internal factors such as; beliefs, values, personality traits or abilities. In contrast, Hindu adults made greater reference to situational aspects; such as the weather. The results imply culture effects how we explain behaviour. This study suggests the culture we grow up in influences how we explain other people’s behaviour. Another experiment shows support for the research conducted by Miller (1984). In this experiment participants were asked to watch cartoons of fish interacting in different ways such as; a fish leaving the group and the fish joining the...

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