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Attribution refers to the process where people assign meanings to others’ behavior or seek to give explanations or interpretations for the causes of those behaviors. This comprehension and interpretation process is shaped by people’s perception and categorization of their environment, of themselves, and of others as well. In other words, attribution is strongly guided by specific contexts and people’s psychological and relational socialization. Responses to the behaviors of others can thus be affected or misguided by inaccurate attributions, hindering effective or appropriate interpersonal and intergroup communication. Attribution theory broadens the boundaries of categorization and perception when interpreting others’ behavior.

This entry reviews external and internal attributions, examines the individual and social nature of attribution processes, and describes some common attribution errors and biases occurring when people ...

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