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Discounting, In Attribution

  • By: Maureen T. Steckler & Kathryn C. Oleson
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)
Definition

Attribution is the way in which people explain the causes of events or behaviors. At times, individuals must choose among different possible causes as explanations for a particular event or behavior. When people can see more than one reason for something happening, they discount, or minimize, the importance of each reason because they are unsure what the real cause actually is.

Background, History, and Evidence

Harold Kelley introduced the discounting principle in 1971 in his writings on attribution. He demonstrated how people use discounting to explain how job candidates present themselves to interviewers. When candidates act ideal in every way, observers explain that they may be showing their true personalities or may be simply conforming to what the situation demands. However, if they reveal themselves as not ...

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