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ACTORS AND OBSERVERS: ARE THEIR DESCRIPTIONS OF BEHAVIOR INDICATIONS OF THEIR CAUSAL ATTRIBUTIONS?

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Abstract:

Although much of the support for the actor-observer causal attribution hypothesis comes from behavior description studies, the difference between behavior description and causal attribution has been neglected in actor-observer research. Behavior descriptions (e.g., trait ratings) are affected by the size and complexity of one's cognitive schemata about the person being described, which may be unrelated to causal attributions. To test this possibility, pairs of subjects engaged in a brief conversation and then made either trait ratings or causal attributions about their own or the other person's behavior. Although observers made more extreme trait ratings than did actors (supporting the schema complexity notion), observers also made stronger external causal attributions than did actors (contradicting the actor-observer hypothesis). It is concluded that actor-observer differences in descriptions of behavior do not necessarily reflect differences in causal perceptions.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.1988.16.2.207

Publication date: 1988-01-01

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