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Attribution Theories and Accuracy of First Impressions

First Impressions

Under the context of Correspondent inference theory, it is observed that people tend to make certain inferences about observed situations resulting in their “image” about a particular individual (Settle, 1972). This means that on average people tend to inference the personal characteristics of the people they meet daily based on their displayed behavioral evidence which can be characterized in a prolific number of ways such as in clothing choices, food choices, as well as various types of other similar traits. In such a situation, it is common for the followings factors to be utilized for an observer to create an inferred characterization of what a person is like (Settle, 1972):

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  1. The degree of choice of a particular individual (Settle, 1972)
  2. The expectedness of their depicted behavior (Settle, 1972)
  3. The effect of their behavior (Settle, 1972)

For example, throughout my time in both learning and applying psychology both in and out of a university setting, I have come across numerous individuals who smoke. In such instances, I apply correspondent inference theory in which I surmise that such individuals make poor health choices such as eating unhealthy foods, indulging in drinking alcohol, as well as have generally unhealthy lifestyles (i.e. sedentary and lack exercise). Throughout my time in which I have inferred such behavior, I have yet to be proven wrong given that most of these people do tend to depict these behavioral predispositions. As such, I have come to develop the notion that all people who smoke are generally unhealthy and lead to unhealthy lifestyles.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have utilized the co-variation model of attribution and have been proven wrong. The co-variation model of attribution emphasizes that people (i.e. me in this instance) tend to attribute certain behaviors to the factors that are seen during a particular action as well as attribute similar behaviors in instances when it is not observed (Hansen & Scott, 1976). I applied this in the case of a friend wherein when I visited their apartment at one point it was messy to the point of being disgusting. I immediately attributed such behavior using the co-variation model of attribution to such an individual being a slob; however, as I learned, later on, they had been sick for a week and were unable to clean the apartment. This shows that the application of attribution theory in interpreting behavior is not 100% accurate.

Interpreting Biases

When it comes to individuals being equally capable of interpreting each channel, I would have to say that no, such a case is not possible given fundamental differences in the methods of interpretation that each individual possesses. For example, there are issues related to cultural bias (ex: whites viewing blacks), fundamental attribution errors (ex: instructors observing students) as well as actor/observer differences (ex: the messy friend example from earlier) which skews the results of the application of attribution theory given that there as many methods of interpretation as there are people on Earth (Denby & Bowmer, 2013). It is based on this that it can be stated that no true kind of information that is gathered through attribution is equally informative or equally trustworthy given the variances in interpretation that may occur. It is more accurate to assume that the information is not 100% trustworthy if it is inferred from one source as compared to numerous sources stating the same thing, yet, without actual proof of the inferred behavior it still cannot be considered 100% accurate (Carless & Waterworth, 2012).

Reference List

Carless, S., & Waterworth, R. (2012). The Importance of Ability and Effort in Recruiters’ Hirability Decisions: An Empirical Examination of Attribution Theory. Australian Psychologist, 47(4), 232-237.

Denby, R. W., & Bowmer, A. (2013). Rural Kinship Caregivers’ Perceptions of Child Well-Being: The Use of Attribution Theory. Journal Of Family Social Work, 16(1), 53-69.

Hansen, R. A., & Scott, C. A. (1976). Comments on “Attribution Theory and Advertiser Credibility.”. Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 13(2), 193-197.

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Settle, R. B. (1972). Attribution Theory and Acceptance of Information. Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 9(1), 85-88.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Attribution Theories and Accuracy of First Impressions'. 25 February.

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