Thursday, May 10, 2007

Attributions to bad driving

Lately, I've had a hang-up about appearance and constructions of social reality. I've reflected on how, and why, we choose to convey who we are and how others interpret the message and ultimately understand us. Today, I learned something in relation to this, namely that I tend to make external attributions. I'm digging into Rhodes's and Hamilton's article "Attribution and Entertainment: It's Not Who Dunnit, It's Why" (in Vorderer's and Bryant's Psychology of Entertainment) where the reader is provided an explanation of the attribution theory: it's the prediction of whether an observer will attribute an actor's behavior to internal or external causes.

Think about the last time you were driving, and another driver cut you off.
the writers ask rhetorically. Peace of cake, that happened today, on lunch hour. So they continue:
Did you explain the breach of driving etiquette by focusing on the situation characteristics such as that the driver must be in a hurry, or having a bad day? Typically not. Under those circumstances, most Americans would make disparaging remarks about the driver's bad character, that is, they would make an internal attribution.
Interestingly, I did make a situational attribution as I suggested to my angry passenger that she, the driver cutting me off, probably was late for a meeting or had stretched her 30 minutes lunch break a bit too much, transforming the shortening of the Friday working hours an illusion yet again. I did not look for causes in her personality or character. But I'm wondering if that has anything to do with her being a woman. If it would have been a male driver, I suspect I'd be more prone to look for causes in a bad character.

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