Actor-observer Attributions for Failure to Control Physical Conditions

Evelyn Perloff, Patricia Bohachick


In the actor-observer attribution paradigm Jones and Nisbett (1972) proposed that the causal explanation or attribution made by individuals (actors) for their own behaviour differs from the explanation that others (observers) make of that behaviour. That is, it has been theorized that actors tend to attribute their behaviour to situational demands or events (job pressures, legal problems, social relations, etc.), whereas observers attribute the same behaviour to elements in the actor's disposition (personality, attitudes, physical make up, etc.). It seemed to us that the Jones and Nisbett position had reached a kind of adolescence in terms not only of its age but also its unsettled nature of research findings. Certainly, a number of studies have confirmed actor-observer differences (Arkin & Duval, 1975; Eisen, 1979; Miller, 1975; Nisbett, Caputo, Legant & Marecek, 1973). On the other hand, a comparable number has either disconfirmcd (Calder, Ross & Insko, 1973; Miller & Norman, 1975; Storms, 1973) or only partially supported the Jones and Nisbett hypothesis (Avis, 1979; Feather & Simon, 1971; Herzberger & Clore, 1979; Fichten. 1980; Harvey, Harris & Barnes, 1975; Ross, Bier-brauer & Polly, 1974).
In spite of the fairly extensive research comparing actors' and observers' attributions, these studies have for the most part, concentrated on laboratory effects (Eisen, 1979; Feather & Simon, 1971; Herzberger & Clore, 1979; Nisbett, Caputo, Legant & Marecek, 1973; Storms, 1973). Application of the Jones and Nisbett hypothesis to events outside the laboratory are few (Avis, 1983; Fichten, 1980).

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