Attribution: the mental process of inferring the causes of people’s behavior, including one’s own. The explanation made for a particular behavior. (Hockenbury, 11/30/10) The way in which we assess the causes of a behavior. (Cardwell, 21)

Rationale we create to explain the comments or behaviors of others. For example, Ryan reasons that Jason’s quietness in class means that Jason is shy. (McCornack, 82) People are most comfortable when they have a sense of control over their lives. (Theories of attribution advocate) that people believe they live in a world where the good are rewarded and the bad are punished. This contributes to their sense that it is possible to predict, guide, and ultimately control events. (Collin, 242)

Actor-Observer Effect: a tendency to credit external forces as causes for our behaviors instead of internal factors. For instance, Leon says he snapped at a coworker because she was slow instead of blaming his own impatience. (McCornack, 84) Attribution can change depending on whether the person ins the  ‘actor’ or the ‘observer’ in the situation. For example, someone might justify doing poorly on a test by saying the teacher never went over the subject matter of a question. However, if others in the class did poorly and that individual did well, the individual might claim that it was because the rest of the class just didn’t pay attention. (Kleinman, 168)

Attribute: assign, give, or concede to a person as a right. Ascribe as belonging or appropriate to. Ascribe to as an inherent quality or characteristic. Ascribe to as an effect or consequence. (Oxford)

Attributional Complexity: an ability to acknowledge multiple and complicated explanations for the behavior of others. For example, in spite of Jasmin’s remark, “Well, I guess Trevor’s mad at you,” Shelby thinks there could be several reasons why Trevor didn’t say hello to her. (McCornack, 269)

External Attribution: the assigning of “causality” to environmental or external social factors. Something about the social situation is directing the behavior (such as) social “norms,” laws, rules of conduct, social coercion, etc. (Bamford, 11/3/10) Also referred to as ‘situational attribution.’

Fundamental Attribution Error: the tendency to underestimate external factors and overestimate internal factors when trying to explain the behavior of another individual. (Kleinman, 167) To attribute the behavior of others to internal, personal characteristics, while ignoring or underestimating the effects of external, situational factors. An attribution bias common in “individualistic” cultures. (Hockenbury, 443) When we are focused on watching someone else behave, we are more likely to believe that something about the person is causing the social outcome. When we are acting ourselves, we tend to focus on the “environment” and often to believe that there is something about the situation that is directing our own behavior. (Bamford, 11/3/10)

Blaming the Victim: the tendency to blame an innocent victim of misfortune for having somehow caused the problem or for not having taken steps to avoid or prevent it. (Hockenbury, 442)

Just World Hypothesis: the assumption that the world is fair and that therefore people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. (Hockenbury, 442) 

Internal Attribution: the assigning of “causality” to a person, or variables related to a person. Something about the person (is directing the behavior such as) the person’s personality, his basic nature, his belief system, etc.  (Bamford, 11/3/10) Also referred to as ‘dispositional attribution.’

Social Attribution: the inferences that people draw about the causes of their own behavior and the behavior of others. (Bamford, 11/3/10)