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Fundamental Attribution Error

Definition

The fundamental attribution error describes perceivers' tendency to underestimate the impact of situational factors on human behavior and to overestimate the impact of dispositional factors. For instance, people often tend to believe that aggressive behavior is caused by aggressive personality characteristics (dispositional factor) even though aggressive behavior can also be provoked by situational circumstances (situational factor).

History

The term fundamental attribution error was created in 1977 by social psychologist Lee Ross. However, research on the fundamental attribution error goes back to the 1950s when social psychologists Fritz Heider and Gustav Ichheiser started to investigate lay perceivers' understanding of the causes of human behavior. Interest in the fundamental attribution error experienced a peak in the 1970s and 1980s when a general notion within social psychology was to discover ...

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