Common Sense Psychology

Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Watterson

Attribution Theory: The Psychology of Interpreting Behavior

by Elizabeth Hopper/ThoughtCo.

In psychology, attribution is a judgment we make about the cause of another person’s behavior. Attribution theory explains these attribution processes, which we use to understand why an event or behavior occurred.

  • Attribution theories attempt to explain how human beings evaluate and determine the cause of other people’s behavior.
  • Well-known attribution theories include the correspondent inference theory, Kelley’s covariation model, and Weiner’s three-dimensional model.
  • Attribution theories typically focus on the process of determining whether a behavior is situationally-caused (caused by external factors) or dispositionally-caused (caused by internal characteristics).

Common Sense Psychology

Fritz Heider put forward his theories of attribution in his 1958 book The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. Heider was interested in examining how individuals determine whether another person’s behavior is internally caused or externally caused.

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