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Article

Thomas F. Pettigrew

Intergroup attribution refers to causal attributions that people make about the behavior of out-groups and their own in-group. Attribution theory began in the late 1950s and 1960s. This initial interest was limited to how individuals causally interpreted the behavior of other individuals. But in the 1970s social psychologists began to consider causal attributions made about groups. The guiding theory for research in this area has been largely structured by the predictions of the ultimate attribution error (more accurately described as the intergroup attribution bias). Its principal contentions flow from phenomena already uncovered by attribution research on individual behavior. It holds that group attributions, especially among the highly prejudiced, will be biased for the in-group and against out-groups. Ingroup protection (explaining away negative ingroup behavior as situationally determined – “given the situation, we had to act that way”) is typically a stronger effect than ingroup enhancement (accepting positive ingroup behavior as dispositionally determined – “as a people, we are kind and compassionate toward other groups”). Many moderators and mediators of the effect have been uncovered. Asian cultures, for example, tend to be less prone to the intergroup attribution bias, while strong emotions can induce either more or less of the bias. Similarly, empathy and special training can significantly reduce the bias. Together with such closely related processes as the fundamental attribution error and actor-observer asymmetry, the intergroup attribution bias has proven highly useful in a great variety of applications. Moreover, the intergroup attribution bias serves as an integral component of the intergroup prejudice syndrome.

Article

Health risk messages may appeal to the responsibility of individuals or members of interdependent dyads for their own or others’ health using many different message strategies. Health messages may also emphasize society’s responsibility for population health outcomes in order to raise support for health policy changes, and these, too, take many different forms. Message designers are inherently interested in whether these appeals to personal, interdependent, and societal responsibility are persuasive. The central question of interest is therefore whether perceptions of responsibility that result from these messages lead to the desired message outcomes. A growing body of empirical research does suggest that there is a direct persuasive effect of perceptions of personal responsibility and interdependent responsibility on health intentions or behaviors, as well as indirect persuasive effects of responsibility on intentions or behaviors via anticipated emotions, specifically regret, guilt, and pride. Research also suggests that perceptions of societal responsibility increase support for public health policy (i.e., the desired message outcome in societal responsibility messages). Important to this area of research is a conceptual definition of responsibility that lends itself toward identifying specific message features that elicit perceptions of responsibility. Specifically, attributions of causation and solution, obligation, and agency are identified as effect-independent message features of responsibility.

Article

Gabriele Villarini and Louise Slater

Flood losses in the United States have increased dramatically over the course of the past century, averaging US$7.96 billion in damages per year for the 30-year period ranging from 1985 to 2014. In terms of human fatalities, floods are the second largest weather-related hazard in the United States, causing approximately 80 deaths per year over the same period. Given the wide-reaching impacts of flooding across the United States, the evaluation of flood-generating mechanisms and of the drivers of changing flood hazard are two areas of active research. Flood frequency analysis has traditionally been based on statistical analyses of the observed flood distributions that rarely distinguish among physical flood-generating processes. However, recent scientific advances have shown that flood frequency distributions are often characterized by “mixed populations” arising from multiple flood-generating mechanisms, which can be challenging to disentangle. Flood events can be driven by a variety of physical mechanisms, including rain and snowmelt, frontal systems, monsoons, intense tropical cyclones, and more generic cyclonic storms. Temporal changes in the frequency and magnitude of flooding have also been the subject of a large body of work in recent decades. The science has moved from a focus on the detection of trends and shifts in flood peak distributions towards the attribution of these changes, with particular emphasis on climatic and anthropogenic factors, including urbanization and changes in agricultural practices. A better understanding of these temporal changes in flood peak distributions, as well as of the physical flood-generating mechanisms, will enable us to move forward with the estimation of future flood design values in the context of both climatic and anthropogenic change.

Article

Fatalism about natural disasters hinders action to prepare for those disasters, and overcoming this fatalism is one key element to preparing people for these disasters. Research by Bostrom and colleagues shows that failure to act often reflects gaps and misconceptions in citizen’s mental models of disasters. Research by McClure and colleagues shows that fatalistic attitudes reflect people’s attributing damage to uncontrollable natural causes rather than controllable human actions, such as preparation. Research shows which precise features of risk communications lead people to see damage as preventable and to attribute damage to controllable human actions. Messages that enhance the accuracy of mental models of disasters by including human factors recognized by experts lead to increased preparedness. Effective messages also communicate that major damage in disasters is often distinctive and reflects controllable causes. These messages underpin causal judgments that reduce fatalism and enhance preparation. Many of these messages are not only beneficial but also newsworthy. Messages that are logically equivalent but are differently framed have varying effects on risk judgments and preparedness. The causes of harm in disasters are often contested, because they often imply human responsibility for the outcomes and entail significant cost.

Article

Tracey J. Riley and Alex C. Yen

Although accounting is typically seen as a numbers-oriented discipline, with an emphasis on quantifying economic events and activity, the nexus of language and accounting, specifically the role of language in communicating corporate accounting results, has received an increasing amount of attention in recent years. This is because quantified accounting results (e.g., earnings per share, sales revenue) are rarely communicated in isolation. Rather, they are usually accompanied by a non-quantitative narrative, such as an earnings press release, a corporate annual report, or the president’s letter, which, along with conference calls and content at corporate websites, we collectively refer to as “accounting narratives.” These narratives allow management to elaborate on and contextualize the financial performance of the company. However, because they are not as extensively regulated as the financial statements and are not standardized, these narratives can also be used by companies for impression-management purposes, to obfuscate (poor) performance and to “spin” the financial results to the companies’ favor. Research into accounting narratives dates back to 1952 and has focused on a wide variety of features of narratives and on how those features affect financial statement readers’ (most notably, investors’) reactions. The earliest studies focused on accounting narratives’ readability by performing a syntactic analysis to assess the cognitive difficulty of written passages. This line of research has found that accounting narratives are syntactically complex and difficult to read and that management intentionally makes bad news less readable in order to strain the readers’ cognitive processes and lead to lower comprehension of the bad news. In addition to this evidence of obfuscation, researchers have found support for managers engaging in attributional framing, which is the tendency to attribute positive outcomes to actions within the company and negative outcomes to actions external to the company (e.g., the government or the weather) in an effort to influence readers’ perception of good versus bad news. More recently, researchers have found that managers use syntactic (sentence structure), semantic (word meaning), and metasemantic (abstract versus concrete construal) manipulation and make broad stylistic choices such as emphasis, length, and scenario form. In terms of how those features affect the readers of the narratives, readers (most notably, investors) have been shown to respond to length and readability; level of negativity; words pertaining to risk, uncertainty, credibility, commitment, and responsibility; justifications of excuses of poor performance; optimistic and pessimistic tone; vivid versus pallid language; internal versus external attributions; and use of self-references.

Article

Marisa Omori and Oshea Johnson

There have been two major approaches to studying racial and ethnic inequality in punishment: The first approach comes from the sociology of punishment and social inequality literatures, and considers how the carceral state, including criminal justice institutions, create racial inequality through policies and practices broadly, or how racialized narratives are embedded in these policies and practices. This includes how scholarship has been drawn from institutional racism and other race literatures and integrated these ideas into how punishment policies and practices are racialized, as well as how the criminal justice system is both a consequence of and a contributor to increasing racial inequality. In particular, the social inequality literature has also been concerned with the rise of mass incarceration and its consequences for racial inequality in individuals, families, and communities. The second approach is drawn from the criminology literature on courts and sentencing, and generally focuses on the magnitude and location of racial disparities for individuals being processed in the criminal justice system, with a particular attention to sentencing outcomes. There are several complementary frameworks that have been used to frame racial inequalities in punishment outcomes; most of them focus on individual-level decisions and decision-makers, with some considerations of organizational-level factors. Most often, this literature also quantitatively tests racial disparities of court processing and court case outcomes, with a particular focus on sentencing of convicted defendants, including whether a defendant was sentenced to prison or not (the “in/out” decision), and the length of prison sentence. The two perspectives can inform each other; the sociology of punishment focuses on policies and practices that drive racial inequality, and the courts and sentencing literature focuses on the consequences of these factors in case processing outcomes.

Article

Dramatic climate changes have occurred in the Baltic Sea region caused by changes in orbital movement in the earth–sun system and the melting of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet. Added to these longer-term changes, changes have occurred at all timescales, caused mainly by variations in large-scale atmospheric pressure systems due to competition between the meandering midlatitude low-pressure systems and high-pressure systems. Here we follow the development of climate science of the Baltic Sea from when observations began in the 18th century to the early 21st century. The question of why the water level is sinking around the Baltic Sea coasts could not be answered until the ideas of postglacial uplift and the thermal history of the earth were better understood in the 19th century and periodic behavior in climate related time series attracted scientific interest. Herring and sardine fishing successes and failures have led to investigations of fishery and climate change and to the realization that fisheries themselves have strongly negative effects on the marine environment, calling for international assessment efforts. Scientists later introduced the concept of regime shifts when interpreting their data, attributing these to various causes. The increasing amount of anoxic deep water in the Baltic Sea and eutrophication have prompted debate about what is natural and what is anthropogenic, and the scientific outcome of these debates now forms the basis of international management efforts to reduce nutrient leakage from land. The observed increase in atmospheric CO2 and its effects on global warming have focused the climate debate on trends and generated a series of international and regional assessments and research programs that have greatly improved our understanding of climate and environmental changes, bolstering the efforts of earth system science, in which both climate and environmental factors are analyzed together. Major achievements of past centuries have included developing and organizing regular observation and monitoring programs. The free availability of data sets has supported the development of more accurate forcing functions for Baltic Sea models and made it possible to better understand and model the Baltic Sea–North Sea system, including the development of coupled land–sea–atmosphere models. Most indirect and direct observations of the climate find great variability and stochastic behavior, so conclusions based on short time series are problematic, leading to qualifications about periodicity, trends, and regime shifts. Starting in the 1980s, systematic research into climate change has considerably improved our understanding of regional warming and multiple threats to the Baltic Sea. Several aspects of regional climate and environmental changes and how they interact are, however, unknown and merit future research.

Article

Sandra Graham and Xiaochen Chen

Attribution theory is concerned with the perceived causes of success and failure. It is one of the most prominent theories of motivation in the field of education research. The starting point for the theory is an outcome perceived as a success or failure and the search to determine why that outcome occurred. Ability and effort are among the most prominent perceived causes of success and failure. Attribution theory focuses on both antecedents and consequences of perceived causality. Antecedents or determinants of attributions may be beneficial or harmful, and they include teacher behaviors such as communicated sympathy, offering praise, and unsolicited help that indirectly function as low-ability cues. Seemingly positive teacher behaviors can therefore have unintended negative consequences if they lead students to question their ability. Attributional consequences are grounded in three properties or dimensions of causes: locus, stability, and controllability. Each dimension is uniquely linked to particular psychological and behavioral outcomes. The locus dimension is related to self-esteem, the stability dimension is linked to expectancy for success or failure, and the controllability dimension is related to interpersonal evaluation. Research on self-handicapping is illustrative of the locus-esteem relation because that literature depicts how dysfunctional causal thinking about the self can undermine achievement. Attribution retraining programs focus on the stability-expectancy link to strengthen individuals’ awareness of how they can alter their causal thoughts and behavior. Changing maladaptive beliefs about the causes of achievement failure (e.g., from low ability to lack of effort) can result in more persistence and improved performance. And, stereotypes about stigmatized groups are grounded in the controllability-interpersonal evaluation attributional lens. Unlike other motivational theories, attribution theory addresses the antecedents and consequences of both intrapersonal attributions (how one perceives the self) and interpersonal attributions (how one perceives other people) with one set of interrelated principles Future research should devote more attention to identifying moderators of attributional effects, multipronged intervention approaches that include an attributional component, and stronger depictions of how race/ethnicity alters attributional thinking.

Article

Social scientists have debated whether belief in a biological basis for sexual orientation engenders more positive attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. Belief in the biological theory has often been observed to be correlated with pro-lesbian/gay attitudes, and this gives some “weak” support for the hypothesis. There is far less “strong” evidence that biological beliefs have caused a noteworthy shift in heterosexist attitudes, or that they hold any essential promise of so doing. One reason for this divergence between the weak and strong hypothesis is that beliefs about causality are influenced by attitudes and group identities. Consequently beliefs about a biological basis of sexual orientation have identity-expressive functions over and above their strictly logical causal implications about nature/nurture issues. Four other factors explain why the biological argument of the 1990s was an intuitively appealing as a pro-gay tool, although there is no strong evidence that it had a very substantive impact in making public opinion in the USA more pro-gay. These factors are that the biological argument (a) implied that sexuality is a discrete social category grounded in fundamental differences between people, (b) implied that sexual orientation categories are historically and culturally invariant, (c) implied that gender roles and stereotypes have a biological basis, and (d) framed homosexual development, not heterosexual development, as needing explanation. Understanding this literature is important and relevant for conceptualizing the relationship between biological attributions and social attitudes in domains beyond sexual orientations, such as in the more recent research on reducing transphobia and essentialist beliefs about gender.

Article

John Frow

Questions of authorship bring into play many of the central questions of literary theory: questions as to what constitutes the unity and coherence of texts, the interpretive relevance of authorial intention, the relation of oral to literate cultures, the regulation of writing by church and state, the legal underpinnings of literary property, the significance of forgery and plagiarism, and so on. At the heart of many of these questions is a distinction between two different orders of phenomena. Writers are not necessarily authors: authorship requires recognition and attribution, and these depend on institutional processes of publication, textual stabilization, criticism, education, and appropriate legal, regulatory, and economic conditions. Those processes and conditions vary from culture to culture, as do the particular historical forms that authorship takes. In the contemporary world authorship tends to be cast as though it were directly expressive of a personality, an inner core of selfhood, that underwrites the coherence of the texts attributed to it; the commercialization of that form gives rise to a cult of the author in both academic and popular culture.

Article

Li Chu, Yang Fang, Vivian Hiu-Ling Tsang, and Helene H. Fung

Cognitive processing of social and nonsocial information changes with age. These processes range from the ones that serve “mere” cognitive functions, such as recall strategies and reasoning, to those that serve functions that pertain to self-regulation and relating to others. However, aging and the development of social cognition unfold in different cultural contexts, which may assume distinct social norms and values. Thus, the resulting age-related differences in cognitive and social cognitive processes may differ across cultures. On the one hand, biological aging could render age-related differences in social cognition universal; on the other hand, culture may play a role in shaping some age-related differences. Indeed, many aspects of cognition and social cognition showed different age and culture interactions, and this makes the study of these phenomena more complex. Future aging research on social cognition should take cultural influences into consideration.

Article

During the formation of the Mexican nation, jefaturas políticas, or prefectures, as they will be called generically in this article, were basic institutions (1812–1917) for centralizing and organizing power and assuring governance. This was a vital task given the civil and international wars the country would endure. These powerful institutions were the mediators between the upper and lower political echelons and social classes. In the prefectures were vested an impressive range of diverse responsibilities—agrarian, fiscal, preserving order, military conscriptions, educational, medical and sanitary services, promoting the economy, elaborating statistics, mapmaking—which made modernization and administrative functionality very difficult. At the turn of the 20th century, this was an obstacle to the modernization and efficacy of the regime. Even though prefectures had responsibilities for all of Mexico, they also had an important degree of flexibility to attend to local needs. Therefore, laws and practices were adapted to the peculiarities of the different states, for example, regulating labor or conciliating rivalries that sprang from the application of liberal agrarian policies. Prefects governed specific political districts in which the states were divided and were generally appointed and removed freely by the governors as their personal representatives to enforce laws and policies and to control any opposition. They were remembered in popular imaginary, literary, and revolutionary historiography as brutal and corrupt functionaries loyal only to the upper classes and their clientelist networks. Contemporary studies have proved that these modalities—brutality and corruption—have a place in the prefect’s box of tools, but new research has widened the historiographic perspective and showed how differently these functionaries could act. In fact, they used most of their energy trying to negotiate with the whole range of social classes and political factions. But their repressive character led to its elimination: they fought the revolution of 1910, and when they lost they were suppressed in 1917.

Article

Disasters are significant events with enormous consequences for democratic political systems. As such, they provide important insights into how governmental institutions address hazardous situations. They also reveal the critical role that the media and politics play in this process. These themes are echoed in the general research on disasters, as well as in the accounts of hazardous events occurring in specific communities and locales. However, despite the wealth of scholarship conducted on this topic across a variety of disciplines, important questions remain about what role citizens play in this process, as well as the impact of governmental hazard management policies on broader democratic processes and societal conditions.

Article

Brenda L. Berkelaar and Millie A. Harrison

Broadly speaking, cybervetting can be described as the acquisition and use of online information to evaluate the suitability of an individual or organization for a particular role. When cybervetting, an information seeker gathers information about an information target from online sources in order to evaluate past behavior, to predict future behavior, or to address some combination thereof. Information targets may be individuals, groups, or organizations. Although often considered in terms of new hires or personnel selection, cybervetting may also include acquiring and using online information in order to evaluate a prospective or current client, employee, employer, romantic partner, roommate, tenant, client, or other relational partner, as well as criminal, civil, or intelligence suspects. Cybervetting takes advantage of information made increasingly available and easily accessible by regular and popular uses and affordances of Internet technologies, in particular social media. Communication scholars have long been interested in the information seeking, impression management, surveillance, and other processes implicated in cybervetting; however, the uses and affordances of new online information technologies offer new dimensions for theory and research as well as ethical and practical concerns for individuals, groups, organizations, and society.

Article

Joseph Walsh

Cognitive therapy is a perspective on social work intervention with individuals, families, and groups that focuses on conscious thought processes as the primary determinants of most emotions and behaviors. It has great appeal to social work practitioners because of its utility in working with many types of clients and problem situations, and its evidence-based support in the literature. Cognitive therapies include sets of strategies focused on education, a restructuring of thought processes, improved coping skills, and increased problem-solving skills for clients.