We make attributions every day about our own behaviors  and the behaviors of the people that we interact with. And depending on  what we attribute to the cause of a person or our behavior this directly  affects our attitudes and behaviors toward that person. If our  attributions are correct, then outcome can be positive, as they can help  us to work more effectively with that person or to make better  decisions for ourselves. However, if we make an error in our attribution  of the cause of a behavior, then our own following behaviors can  negatively compound the situation.

Consider the following situations that we have all experienced:

You go out to lunch with your friend and find that your waitress is a  bit absentminded and is not in the best of mood as she takes your order  and serves you. You tell your friend that this lady should not be a  waitress and needs to find a new job because her attitude stinks.

You pull into a gas station and there is only one free pump, but you  cannot get to it because there is a person at the first pump. You think  to yourself “What a jerk, I can’t believe they did not pull up to the  second pump.”

  • Why were these attributions and assumptions made in each situation? Are they most likely accurate or not? 
  • What are some alternative explanations for the behaviors of the  waitress and person pumping gas? Why do we typically not assume these  later explanations but rather jump to the conclusions made in the  examples?
  • If you were the person in each of these scenarios and took a minute  to look back at these behaviors would you have the same thoughts about  yourself (you are in the wrong job or that you are a jerk)? Why might  the attributions of your own behaviors be different than your  attributions of others’ behaviors?


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