Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Biases in Attribution - where do we see them?

In the last blog, we looked at internal and external attribution that we generally do. In today's blog, we look at some of the biases that could creep in - primarily 2 of them - the Fundamental attribution error and Self serving bias. Let us begin with defining the two.

  • Fundamental Attribution Error refers to the tendency to make attributions to internal causes when focusing on someone else's behavior.
  • Self Serving Bias refers to the tendency to attribute one's own success to internal causes and one's failure to external causes.

To understand these, let us look at a scenario where a manager is asked to cite the cause of the company's employee's poor performance. The manager might claim that the employee's lack of effort or lack of ability were the causes for this poor performance. This is an example of fundamental attribution error.

If employees were asked explain the cause of their own performance problems, they could possibly blame it on the lack of support from the manager - this is an example of self-serving bias.

While the above examples explain what attribution errors are, it is important to note that attribution itself has a very close alignment with the culture of the place. The way individuals interpret the events around them has a strong influence on their behavior.

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