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Attributions as Behavior Explanations: Toward a New Theory

Malle, Bertram (2003) Attributions as Behavior Explanations: Toward a New Theory. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Attribution theory has played a major role in social-psychological research. Unfortunately, the term attribution is ambiguous. According to one meaning, forming an attribution is making a dispositional (trait) inference from behavior; according to another meaning, forming an attribution is giving an explanation (especially of behavior). The focus of this paper is on the latter phenomenon of behavior explanations. In particular, I discuss a new theory of explanation that provides an alternative to classic attribution theory as it dominates the textbooks and handbooks—which is typically as a version of Kelley’s (1967) model of attribution as covariation detection. I begin with a brief critique of this theory and, out of this critique, develop a list of requirements that an improved theory has to meet. I then introduce the new theory, report empirical data in its support, and apply it to a number of psychological phenomena. I finally conclude with an assessment of how much progress we have made in understanding behavior explanations and what has yet to be learned.

Item Type:Preprint
Keywords:explanations, causality, intentionality, social cognition, theory of mind, folk psychology
Subjects:Philosophy > Philosophy of Mind
Psychology > Social Psychology
ID Code:3314
Deposited By:Malle, Bertram F.
Deposited On:13 Dec 2003
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:55

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