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Title:Two Sources of Influence Related to the Use of the Discounting Principle: Specific Versus General Causal Attributions and the Believability of Attributions
Author(s):Pirok, Edna Wilson
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Social
Abstract:Numerous studies on causal attribution have supported the discounting principle which has been stated by Kelley (1973) as follows: "The role of a given cause in producing a given effect is discounted if other causes are also present" (p. 113). Kun, Murray, and Sredl (1980) have noted that discounting is not, as previously assumed, an implication of the multiple sufficient causal (MSC) schema, and concluded that naive attributors are logically biased and naive in conceptually based thinking for discounting. In contrast Jones (1979) has assumed the appropriateness of discounting, but has found attributors lacking for discounting insufficiently. He has focused upon the attitude attribution realm in his discussion of the fundamental attribution error, the failure to fully discount dispositional causes in the face of situational ones.
While examples in the literature of multi-causal situations for which discounting seems inappropriate were given in hypothetical or general form (X's cause Y's), the experimental procedures eliciting discounting used specific effects and causes (X caused Y or was present when Y occurred). Discounting could be considered appropriate if a distinction is made between specific and general causal claims such that even though general claims may not be interpreted as excluding an alternate cause, specific causal claims usually are so interpreted. In the present study it was found that collge students do make that distinction between the implications of specific and general causal claims, p < .001. Discounting is appropriate however, only if an initial occurrence is believed to have been sufficient to cause the effect in question. It was found that a significantly higher percentage of those specific causal claims which were interpreted as allowing alternate causes than those disallowing alternate causes were assigned ratings of Difficult rather than Easy to assume that the attributor believed the claim to be true, p < .001. This suggests the possibility that the insufficient discounting in studies of the fundamental attribution error may have been believability-related as well. The results are discussed in terms of the reversibility assumption defining causal schema and of experimental demand and experimenter knowledge, with caution in judging and labeling the attributor recommended.
Issue Date:1983
Description:79 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1983.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8324622
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1983

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