Causes for a person’s behavior can also be either controllable or uncontrollable. If you make the attribution that the behavior of a person was under their control, this would be a controllable attribution. Someone being late because they didn’t wake up on time is an example of a controllable attribution. On the other hand, an uncontrollable attribution identifies the cause as being not in the person’s control. If the person is late because their bus didn’t arrive on time like it should have, the attribution was uncontrollable.
Attributions also play a vital role in communication behavior, such as a facial expression from one person to another. Communication behaviors can be seen as occurring for different reasons. Attributions can even be considered explanations for communicative behavior. In interpersonal communication, attribution refers to the way in which people explain the causes of their own behavior and the behavior of others. Perceptions of yourself and others around you aid in the process of decision making during communication, and deciphering why the other person is acting they way they are during conversation. We also make attributions to defend what we see as attacks or threats to our social face.
Let’s say Mary is a straight A student who is in the honors program at her school. She’s very driven and focused in her studies. She has always excelled at math and it is her favorite subject. Lately, Mary hasn’t been doing well in algebra. She hasn’t been studying outside of school and has lost her motivation. Her grades in the class began to plummet. Her classmates starting making attributions about her after their last test. They believed that Mary was so used to making good grades that she thought she didn’t have to try anymore during class or make an effort to study. Her teacher even began to question that her lectures weren’t good enough, and attributed Mary’s failing grades were because of her teaching. In reality, Mary was distracted from her studies because her grandmother was in the hospital. Mary couldn’t focus in class and didn’t do her homework because she was too busy visiting her ill grandmother. This is an example of the Attribution theory because Mary’s classmates and teacher had used their own assumptions and judgements to come up with causes for her behavior.
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