Suppose your boss bawls you out for doing sloppy job on an insignificant project. To what do you attribute your boss’s tongue lashing? Was your work really that bad? Is your boss just in a grouchy mood? Is your boss under too much pressure?
In assessing what a significant individual is like, people are particularly interest in learning why the person behaves in a certain way. This deeper level of understanding is vital if one is to make accurate predictions about the person’s future behavior. After all, when you are looking for a roommate, you don’t want to end up with an inconsiderate slab. To determine the cause of others behavior people, engage in the process of casual attribution.
Attributions are interferences that people draw about the causes of their own behavior, other’s behavior, and events.
When people ascribe the causes of someone’s behavior to personal disposition, traits, abilities, or feelings, they are making internal attributions. When they impute the causes of their behavior to situational demands and environmental constraints, they are making external attributions. For example, if a friend’s business fails, you might attribute the failure to your friend’s lack of business skills ( an internal factor) or to negative trends in the economy (an external factor). Parents who discover that their teenage son has banged up the family car may blame it on. The carelessness (an internal attribution) or on slippery road conditions (an external attribution).
The types of attributions people make about others can have a tremendous impact on everyday social interactions. For example, blaming a friend’s business failure on poor business “smarts” rather than on a poor economy will obviously affect how you view your friend not to mention whether you’ll lend her money! Likewise, if parents attribute their son’s automobile accident to slippery road conditions, they are likely to deal with him very differently than if they attribute it to his carelessness. In addition, there is evidence that spouse’s attributions for each other’s behavior can affect their marital satisfaction.
Obviously, people don’t make attributions about every person they meet. People are relatively selective in this process. It seems that people are most likely to make attributions:
- When others behave in unexpected or negative ways.
- When events are personally relevant.
- When they are suspicious about another person’s motives.
Some aspects of the attribution process are logical. Nonetheless, research also shows that the process of person perception is sometime illogical and unsystematic, as in the case of snap judgments.
Shortly after you begin interacting with someone, you start forming hypotheses about what the person is like. In turn these hypotheses can influence your behavior toward that person in such a way as to confirm your expectations. Thus, if on your first encounter with Rohan, he has a camera around his neck, you will probably hypothesize that he has an interest in photography and question him selectively about his shutterbug activities you might also neglect to ask more wide ranging question that would give you a more accurate picture of him. This tendency to behave toward others in ways that confirm your expectations about them is termed confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is a well documented phenomenon. It occurs in casual social interactions as well as in job interviews and in courtrooms, where interviewer or attorney may ask leading questions. When it comes to forming first impressions of others, it is not so much that “seeing is believing” but rather that “believing is seeing.”
Confirmation bias also occurs because individuals selectively recall facts to fit their views of others. In one experiment, participant watched a videotape of a women engaging in a variety of activities. Half of them were told that the woman was a waitress and the other half was told that she was a librarian. When asked to recall the woman’s actions on the videotape, participants tended to remember activities consistent with their stereotypes of waitresses and librarians.
Thus, those who thought that the woman was a waitress recalled her drinking beer, those who thought she was a librarian recalled her listening to classical music.
They go blithely along, assuming that their version of reality is accurate.
Sometimes a perceiver’s expectations can actually change another person’s behavior this outcome is not inevitable.
Another source of error in person perception comes from distortions in the minds of perceivers. These errors in judgment are most likely to occur when a perceiver is in a hurry, is distracted, or is not motivated to pay careful attention to another person.
One of the ways people efficiently process information is to classify objects (and people) according to their distinctive features (Fiske, 1998). Thus people quite often categorize others on the basis of nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and so forth. People frequently take the easy path of categorizing others to avoid expending the cognitive effort that would be necessary for a more accurate impression.
When people are perceived as being unique or distinctive, they are also seen as having more influence in a group, and their good and bad qualities are given extra weight. Significantly distinctiveness also triggers stereotyping. This phenomenon explains why many people notice nagging women (but not men), noisy poor (but not rich), and jolly fat (but not thin) people.
Stereotypes are widely held beliefs that people have certain characteristics because of their membership in a particular group. Stereotypes can be spontaneously triggered when people encounter members of commonly stereotyped groups– even in those who are not prejudiced. Stereotypes can exist outside a person’s awareness. Because stereotyping is automatic, some psychologists are pessimistic about being able to control it others take a more optimistic view.
In forming impression of other people and behaving in a certain way, individuals rely on appearance, verbal behavior, action, nonverbal messages and situational cues, individual make snap judgment about others unless accurate impression are important.
To explain the causes of other people behavior, individual make attribution.