Understanding Attribution Theory And Common Biases In Behavior Analysis


Attribution is a way of explaining why someone behaves a certain way and why it happens. There are two different types of critical misjudgments people make: internal and situational dispositions. Internal and situational dispositions were based on a theory called attribution theory.

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Exploring Attribution Theory:

This theory “was developed by social psychologist Fritz Heider” (Ciccarelli and White 479). Fritz Heider used this theory “as a way of not only explaining why things happen but also why people choose the particular explanations of behavior that they do” (Ciccarelli and White 479). Internal dispositions are someone’s behavior based the characteristics, personality, thoughts, or feelings. Situational dispositions are based on a situation and actions that occurred to the person. An example of an internal disposition is Danny getting a bad grade on his research paper and thinking his professor does not like him. An example of a situational disposition is the directions that were given were too hard, and I did not understand them. Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) is looking at other people’s actions and personalities based on our feeling and assuming something. An example of FAE is Sally’s boyfriend has not been answering her texts since Monday and thinks she did something wrong. Saliency bias focuses on the important parts of the explanation of the changes in behavior. Self-serving bias is when you are looking at your own behavior in a negative or positive way. It helps with our self-esteem, but over-blaming ourselves is not good or healthy.

Today in our society, everyone uses attributions, including me. Around the middle of May, my parents have gotten me my first car as an early graduation/birthday gift. I was so excited that I got a car! I would not have to worry about borrowing my mom’s car when I make plans with my friends. I literally had my own freedom to go anywhere I wanted, but obviously, I would tell my mom where I was going. About towards the end of June, I had already graduated, and it is one of the biggest accomplishments I have achieved now. My friends decided that as a reward for graduation, they were going to go to Pennsylvania from Friday to Sunday. I had to beg my parents to let me go because they did not let me go away for prom weekend, which is understandable. They told me I could go, and I was super excited! The day before we left, I went to the mall to buy shorts, and I wanted to buy a new bathing suit. I went to a store called Garage in the Garden State Plaza, and I fell in love with this one-piece bathing suit. The store did not have my size, so they called the other store located in Paramus Park Mall. They had my size, so I went over there. As I was leaving the mall, it was pouring like crazy. I tell myself as I leave the entrance of the mall, “You need to run to get into the car, so you can leave.” I drove out of the parking lot as fast as I could. As I was driving, I noticed that I couldn’t see anything. I thought to myself that it was going to go away, it was just rain, and it would clear up like it always does. Then, in a couple of seconds, I got into an accident on Route 17. Luckily, thank you to God that I was ok, and nothing happened to me. The only thing that was messed up with the bumper of my car by hitting a pole. I believe I got into an accident because of the pouring rain. I called my mom right away. It turns out that I was wrong about why I got into an accident. Lesson learned when your windshield starts to get foggy or if it starts to rain/rain, always put your defrosters on before you start to drive or as you are driving.  

Fear And Violence In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Perspective

Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. In “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, he describes in a letter to his son the unpleasant emotion he experienced in his life. Coates talks about how fear controls people into doing harsh things. He explains his experiences of violence he saw in the streets and in his home. We act based on our emotions as we let them overcome us. Fear is an emotion that can control us most. Fear overcoming most of what we feel can lead to violence. As we punish those closer to us with the fear of losing them, we fear what we don’t know; we can abandon our humanity on that which we fear.

Fear is powerful and primitive human emotion. It alerts us to danger and can be divided into two responses, biochemical and emotional. The biochemical reaction is our body reacting on its own due to fear which includes physical reactions. These physical reactions include physical reactions in which our body prepares itself to either enter combat or run away. This can lead to violence as we just act without thinking and hurting those around us. The emotional response is personalized; it can be “perceived as either positive or negative, depending on the person” (Verywell Mind). Our brain just acts on our emotions which can make us do violent things without even thinking about it.

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With fear, we punish the people we care most about due to the fact that we don’t want to lose them; our brain proceeds this emotion with violence. Coates describes how his parents would punish him harshly when he went out into the world. He explains how his father “beat [him] for threatening [his] ninth-grade teacher. Not being violent enough could cost [him his] body” (28). Coates father would beat him senseless in the act of not wanting to lose him. Coates felt “vaguely [and] wordlessly, that for a child to be marked off for such life, to be forced to live in fear was great injustice” (28). Fear makes us do unimaginable things to those we love to “prepare” them for the real world, where it’s filled with fear and violence. Whenever we’re in a frightening situation where we fear what’s going to happen, we respond physically.

In Coate’s novel, he Coates talks about how fear controls them and how they would rather kill their children rather than have them killed in the street. Parents were afraid to lose their children, so they would always spank them to “protect” them, while children were afraid of their parents. Coates states how after watching all the violence in the streets, “the fear of being targeted by cops and drug dealers alike, the ‘toughness’ that covers that fear, the codes that dictate how people act in every situation, including saying hello” and seeing his friend being shot for no reason, he finally understood his father’s reasons to act violently. He states how “black people love their children with a kind of obsession.” They would do anything for them, even kill them, rather than their children “being killed by the streets that America made.” (82). Coates describes how he felt the same after an accident that occurred to him in a store and how due to his fear of his child being endangered, he reacted violently. People turn their fear into anger, whether to protect their loved ones or themselves, which turns into the act of violence and brutality.

We also act biochemically and emotionally to the things we don’t understand. Most of us fear what we don’t know or understand. In “A Letter to My Nephew” by James Baldwin, he describes the violence in this world and how “people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.” James shows us how when we don’t understand something, and we fear it, we act negatively based on what we know. Fear comes from ignorance about the way things exist; we fear that which is different or unknown, and we act out. When people fear, they feel weak, and because of our emotions, we act in the form of violence to not show our vulnerability.

Based on what we feel, we act, whether it’s positively or negatively. When we fear something, we can abandon our humanity to rid of what we fear. In “Making America White Again” by Toni Morrison, she talks about how “the choices made by white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.” With this in mind, she shows us how in this situation, white men are willing to abandon their humanity to make America white again because of fear of losing it. In the article, it talks about how white Americans and immigrants moving to America fear losing their superiority and act in the form of violence. “Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing,” and in doing so, “they are abandoning their sense of human dignity.” This shows how many americans are willing to kill small children and slaughter churchgoers and willing to shoot black children in the street. This shows how fear leads to violence as we would sacrifice ourselves and lose our dignity to preserve what we have and keep it for us.

Fear can make us do great positive things. However, we mostly focus on the negative. We act in violence in order to protect those we love. We abandon our humanity on the things we fear. We proceed fear in the act of violence on the information we don’t understand or comprehend. Fear is often immediately followed by violence; it’s our nature to self-defense. When we turn our fear into anger, we attack without thinking. Fear is an unpleasant emotion, that’s the belief something, or someone is dangerous, which can cause pain or a threat to us, and we react violently.

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