Discuss two errors in attributions


Error 1: Fundamental Attribution Error


FAE occurs when people overestimate personality traits (dispositional factors) and underestimate environmental factors when they explain other people’s behavior. According to social psychologist Fiske (2004), people rely too much on personality in explaining behavior and they underestimate – or never consider – the power of situations.





Study to use: Ross, Amabile, and Steinmetz (1977)



Strengths of the FAE:




Limitations of the FAE:




Error 2: The self-serving bias (SSB)


The SSB (i.e. a self-enhancing strategy) refers to people’s tendency to evaluate themselves positively by taking credit for their success (“I am intelligent”) and attribute their failures to situational factors (“The teacher is not competent”).


A special version of the SSB is called “self-handicapping”. For example, students who expect to fail an exam can openly make situational attributions before the exam by saying that they have hangovers or that they haven’t slept the whole night.


Possible explanations:




Study to use: Lau and Russel (1980)


Strengths of the SSB:



Limitations of the SSB: