Assignment # 1 – Attribution Forming attributions is a major part of daily life. Consider this column written to Ann Landers “Dear Ann Landers: I’m writing to you in desperation, hoping you can help me with a problem I am having with my mother. A little over a year ago, I moved in with my boyfriend, despite my mother’s protests. She has never liked “Kevin.” I’ll admit he’s far from perfect and we’ve had our problems. He’s an alcoholic, has a bad temper, is mentally abusive, is a compulsive liar, and cannot hold a job. I am in debt over my head because of him, but my biggest problem is that my mother is obsessed with my situation. I understand her concern, but I can only take so much … OVER-MOTHERED IN MICHIGAN” To which Ann Landers replied: “Dear Overly-Mothered: Your mother didn’t write to me. You did. So you’re the one who is going to get the advice. Get some counseling at once and find out why you insist on hanging onto an alcoholic, abusive, unemployed liar …” As you can see, the letter writer says her biggest problem is her mother (relying on external factors) while Ann Landers made a dispositional attribution about the letter writer (“get into counseling”). You can watch the attribution process in action, too. All it takes is a friend (or a group of friends) and an interesting topic to discuss. Get into a conversation with at least one other person (a friend, group of friends, significant other, or family member NOT in this class), and listen to him or her. Your friend will probably tell you about an interesting encounter he or she had with another person that day, or your group might be talking about a mutual friend who is not currently present in the group, but everyone in the group knows. As this other person talks, your assignment is to pay very close attention to what they say. There is a good chance your friend(s) will be trying to figure out why the person being discussed did what they did, or said what they said. In other words, they will be making attributions about someone not currently present. Your job is to keep track of their comments (without them knowing you are working on an assignment) and later write about the attributional strategies they are using. In particular, is your friend(s) making internal attributions about another person’s character or personality, or are they making situational attributions about non-personality variables that may have contributed to the person’s response? Does your friend(s) seem to prefer making one type of attribution over the other? If their interpretation is dispositional (they focus on the person’s character or personality), what happens when you suggest another possible interpretation, one that is situational? If their interpretation is situational, what happens if you suggest a dispositional cause? Do they agree or disagree with you? What kinds of information do they offer as “proof” that their attribution is correct? Observing people when they are making attributions in real conversation will show you just how common and powerful this type of thinking is when people are trying to understand each other. Using the questions on the next page, write about your observations. Attribution Assignment Worksheet Instructions: Answer the following six questions about a discussion you have with your friends or family. Copy the responses, and then paste them into the Assignment Materials submission box (#1) in the Canvas Assignment page for Assignment #1. Make sure you answer ALL questions thoroughly 1. Briefly describe the setting. How many people are in this conversation? How many are male/female? Are they friends, family or coworkers etc.? IMPORTANT: Make sure to tell me who the person NOT PRESENT is. You can provide their name, an alias, or a brief description (boyfriend, cousin, co-worker, etc.). The people / person(s) present should be discussing the person who is absent, so I need a little info about both – (4 points) 2. Briefly describe the event you were discussing that led your friend(s)/family to make attributions (if there are many events, just focus on one). (4 points) 3. Does your conversation partner(s) seem to be making dispositional or situational attributions? First, define what you mean by dispositional or situational (what does it mean!). Second, describe their actual attribution in detail. That is, how did they describe the behavior of this missing person? Third, tell me WHY you think it was dispositional or situational. (5 points). This one is a bit tougher, so it is worth more points! 4. What happens when you suggest the opposite attribution (if THEY focus on a dispositional attribution, then YOU suggest a situational attribution, or vice versa)? (4 points) 5. What kinds of “proof” do they offer to support their attribution? You can cheat a bit here and point out some similar items from #3 and #4 above, but only if they use it as proof. (4 points) 6. Now tell them about the assignment, and see if they agree or disagree with your insights. Make sure to explain the concepts of dispositional and situational attributions to them. Do they think they tend to engage in one or the other more often? Why? (4 points)
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