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Bernard Weiner Attribution Theory

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					Bernard Weiner’s Attribution
Theory

    Barbara Slater Stern, Ed. D.
   Secondary Education Program
            EDUC 640
     James Madison University
Purpose:
   Attribution theory addresses the ways
    individuals arrive at causal explanations and
    the implications of those beliefs.
   In other words, attribution theory examines
    behavior and tries to answer “why?”


   Thus, this is a theory of motivation as
    opposed to learning.
Principles:
   Views people from their search to
    understand and to achieve personal
    fulfillment
   Thus, the focus is on the relationship
    among
       achievement-related outcomes
       Causal beliefs
       Subsequent emotions and activities
Assumptions
   The search for understanding is a
    primary motivator of action
   Attributions (causal explanations) are
    complex sources of information about
    behavior
   Future behavior is determined, in part,
    by the perceived causes of prior
    behavior.
            Three Dimensions of
            attributions
Dimension         Description         Personal            Social Domain
                                      Domain
Locus of cause    Internal/           Ability internal    Personal trait
                  external            Luck external       Someone else’s
                                                          “stuff”

Stability         Constancy or        Ability is stable   Phys.
                  durability          Effort unstable     Attractiveness is
                                                          stable, desired
                                                          object is
                                                          busy/unstable
Controllability   Perceived           Effort is           Hyperactivity seen
                  attribute can or    controllable        as controllable,
                  cannot be           Ability is          shyness seen as
                  controlled by the   uncontrollable      uncontrollable.
                  individual
          Dimensions of Major Attributes
             Stabili              Locus      Causal Controll
             ty                   of         ity    ability
Attribution Stable     Unstable   Internal   Exter-   Control-   Uncon-
                                             nal      lable      trollable
ability
             x                    x                              x
effort
                       x          x                   x
Task
difficulty
             x                               x                   x
luck
                       x                     x                   x
Mood,
illness
                       x          x                              x
Help from
others
                       x                     x                   x
Emotions Generated by Causal
Linkages
   Positive Outcomes
       Internal cause – feelings of pride and self-
        esteem
       Controllable cause- feelings of confidence
       Stable cause- maximizes feelings of pride,
        self-worth, and confidence
       Uncontrollable/external cause- feelings of
        gratitude.
Con’t
   Negative outcomes
       Internal cause- feelings of embarrassment,
        guilt, and shame
       Controllable cause- feelings of guilt
       Stable cause- maximizes emotions of
        shame, apathy, and resignation associated
        with internal, controllable causes
       Uncontrollable/external cause- feelings of
        anger
Properties of achievement
attributions
Attribution Dimension       Consequence
Ability    internal         Competence or incompetence;
                             pride or shame
           stable           Pride or shame magnified
                            Failure=resignation/apathy
           uncontrollable   Failure= resignation/apathy magnified
effort     internal         Pride in success
           unstable         Does not decrease success expectancy
           controllable     Magnifies pride or guilt
Luck       external         Self-image not altered
           unstable         No decrease in success expectancy
           uncontrollable   Surprise at either success or failure
Con’t
 Attribution Dimension              Consequence

 Help from         external         Self-image not altered
 others
                   unstable         No decrease in success expectancy


                   uncontrollable   Gratitude for help
                                    Anger for hindrance
 Task difficulty   external         No enhancement of self-esteem for
                                    success outcome
                   stable           Same outcome expected again

                   uncontrollable   Depression and frustration for failure
                                    outcomes
Note:
   For junior high/middle school students,
    interest or lack of interest appear to
    be the main attributions for success or
    failure.
Teacher Reactions
   To the best of his/her ability, the
    teacher wants students to attribute
    causes to internal, stable, controllable
    factors such as:
       Effort
       Perseverance
       Hard Work
       Trying
Perceptions of behaviors
   Hyperactivity, bragging and rule-
    breaking are perceived as controllable
    thereby eliciting anger and dislike
   Shyness and physical disabilities are
    perceived as uncontrollable and elicit
    sympathy
   Thus, children react to peers based on
    their perceptions: correct or incorrect.
Learned Helplessness
   Individuals with low self-concept
    experiencing few successes:
       Attribute failure to lack of ability
       See no relationship between their success
        and their actions
Mastery-Oriented Children
   Acknowledge errors but do not view them as
    failures by attributing this to unstable factors.
   Maintain strategies in face of failure and often
    increase sophistication in these strategies.
   Unflagging optimism
   Thus, these children, unlike the helpless
    ones, see themselves as instrumental in
    becoming successful
Summary
   Teacher expectation of performance and
    verbal/body language cues effect student
    attribution.
   Thus, proactive classrooms structure tasks
    that meet the needs of low achievers by
    creating opportunities for success at
    challenging tasks.(co-operative learning is
    one such structure)
Con’t

   Teachers need to be LEARNING oriented
    instead of performance oriented.
   Intelligence is seen as dynamic (not fully
    stable)
   Grades are related to learning (criterion)
    rather than normative (relational)
Con’t
   Errors are seen as part of learning
    rather than as failure
       Attribution to lack of effort rather than lack
        of ability
       Meta-cognitive skills are taught
   Risk-taking is valued and rewarded
   Tasks are challenging but broken into
    steps that can be accomplished well.

				
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posted:7/5/2011
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