Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...
, an attributional bias
is a cognitive bias
A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situations. Implicit in the concept of a "pattern of deviation" is a standard of comparison; this may be the judgment of people outside those particular situations, or may be a set of independently verifiable...
that affects the way we determine who or what was responsible for an event or action (attribution
Attribution is a concept in social psychology referring to how individuals explain causes of behavior and events. Attribution theory is an umbrella term for various theories that attempt to explain these processes. Fritz Heider first proposed a theory of attribution The Psychology of Interpersonal...
). It is a cognitive set that may interfere with social interaction.
Attributional biases typically take the form of actor/observer differences
: people involved in an action (actors
) view things differently from people not involved (observers
). These discrepancies are often caused by asymmetries in availability
The availability heuristic is a phenomenon in which people predict the frequency of an event, or a proportion within a population, based on how easily an example can be brought to mind....
(frequently called "salience
Salience or saliency may refer to:* Salience , the state or quality of an item that stands out relative to neighboring items* Salience , relative importance or prominence of a piece of a sign...
" in this context). For example, the behavior of an actor is easier to remember (and therefore more available for later consideration) than the setting in which he found himself; and a person's own inner turmoil is more available to himself than it is to someone else. As a result, our judgments of attribution are often distorted along those lines. It is also unclear as to how this bias begins to manifest in children.
In some experiments, for example, subjects were shown only one side of a conversation or were able to see the face of only one of the conversational participants. Whomever the subjects had a better view of were judged by them as being more important and more influential, and as having had a greater role in the conversation.
Perhaps the best known attributional bias is the fundamental attribution error
In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error describes the tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors...
, which describes the tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors.
It was found that attributional biases, particularly misinterpreting people's emotions as sad or mad were closely related to poor social skills.