Sociocultural cognition Social norms Cultural norms

Sociocultural cognition

Topic 1
Topic 2
Topic 3
Topic 4

Topic 2 - Errors in attribution

Discuss two errors in attributions

Crane and Hannibal pages 104 - 106

In your notes, write down the basic ideas of each of the following theories:
  • Fundamental attribution error
  • Self-serving bias

Fundamental attribution error

Key study
Look specifically at the study by Lee et. al. (Crane and Hannibal, p. 105)

Part 1
  1. Write a brief summary of the study, including one sentence about each of the following:
  • aims and context
  • procedures
  • findings
  • conclusions

Part 2
  1. Identify 2 limitations
  2. Identify 2 strengths
  3. Identify 2 limitations of the experimental method in general (use the Research Methods text as well as Crane and Hannibal for q. 3 and 4)
  4. Identify 2 strengths of the experimental method

Part 3
To what extent might this error be influenced by culture? What evidence can you find for your hypothesis?

Group work
Share your answers to Parts 1 and 2 on googledocs, and create a group response for Part 3
Make sure you share your document with me at
Create 1 group response for all the above sections on your googledoc

Further Research
Jones, E. E. and Harris, V. A. (1967). The attribution of attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 3, 1-24

Evaluation (after group discussion)

Key ideas

Definition of FAE
  • overestimation of personality (dispositional) traits over environmental factors when looking for explanations of people's behavior
  • an individual will place more emphasis on a person's personality than on the context of the situation - we make judgments about people's personality based on the context we see them in
  • think about what you leave out when you don't consider the role played by the situation (eg. is a game show host really intelligent, or do you just think this because of the role you see them in)

Empirical evidence of FAE (paragraph 1)
Ross, et al (1977)
  • 18 students from Standford university
  • simulated quiz game
  • randomly assigned to role of questioner or contestant, working in pairs
  • Findings
    • questioners were consistently rated superior in knowledge

Jones and Harris (1967)
Fidel Castro essay story (p. 108)
  • no matter what the condition, participant's ratings demonstrated that they thought essays represented actual views of the writer
  • ignored the context of the 2nd condition where writers had no choice about being pro or anti-Castro

Limitation - FAE does not always occur - other factors are involved (Law p. 108)
Fein et al (1990)
  • participants - US students
  • read an essay written by 'Rob'
  • condition 1 - participants told that Rob had to choose a 'for' or 'against' view
    • FAE demonstrated
  • condition 2 - participants told that Rob produced an essay expected by his professor and took the professor's point of view
    • no FAE demonstrated -> indicates that if an ulterior motive is perceived, less likely to make dispositional attributions

Self-serving bias

Review your definition of a 'self-serving bias'
(Crane and Hannibal, pages 105 - 106)

Key study

Class activity
"Dunn (1989) notes that students often have trouble recognizing the self-serving attributional bias in their own behavior, especially when it extends beyond the internal-external dimension related to success and failure on a particular task...students should consistently list more strengths than weaknesses"
Dunn, D. S. (1989). Demonstrating a self-serving bias. Teaching of Psychology, 16, 21-22.

Did this apply to our classes?
Mean number of strengths and weaknesses

Reflection on class activity
Why did students in our Psychology classes not produce the same results as students in North American classes?
Consider the impact of culture


Essential question: How does the cultural environment influence individual behavior? (Sociocultural learning outcome)
Matsumoto and Juang, pages 404 - 417

Using the theory of 'self-serving bias', discuss to what extent attributional biases are culture bound.
Your answer should compare American biases to at least 2 other nations.

(Review the command term ‘to what extent’)
Step 1 – Group discussion (15 minutes)
Step 2 – Writing (30 minutes)

Please complete the writing at home - word processor (max. 500 words)

Further discussion

Links to Darwin and the biological level of analysis
(We will link to this when we study the biological level of analysis)
  • survival of the fittest