Login
Copyright

The Theory of Attribution In Organizational Behavior: Definition and Three Determinants

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 We See What We Want to See
  • 1:49 Internal and External…
  • 2:20 Three Determinants of…
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn
We all view situations and individuals in different ways, but I bet you never knew there were specific reasons why your mind thinks the way it does. In this lesson, we will address why you interpret people or situations the way you do by explaining attribution theory.

We See What We Want to See

John rushes in the front door, slams his briefcase on the kitchen table and runs upstairs. You pass a friend at the mall and he does not have time to talk to you. Sarah is sitting at her desk laughing hysterically while the phone rings.

What do all these situations have in common? Well, as you read them, you probably had your own interpretation of what was going on. Some of you may have thought John was angry when he came home, while others might have thought he was just in a hurry to change his clothes. The friend that passed you in the mall that didn't have time to talk to you - some may have thought that that friend was running late for something, while others might have thought the friend was blowing you off. Finally, some of you might have thought Sarah was ignoring her job as the phone was ringing, while others might have thought someone said something funny to her and she did not want to answer the phone while she was laughing.

All of these are examples of attribution theory, which is how people interpret events and, in their minds, relate them to the way they think or behave. You see, each of you listened to those situations and attributed the actions of the people in those situations based on your thinking and how you behave. It is important to us as humans to understand why individuals behave like they do, and this is the foundation of attribution theory. We can either interpret situations we are in and figure out why we acted the way we did, or look at others and try to determine why they acted the way they did.

As it relates to organizational behavior, interpretation of actions or comments plays a large part in how individuals interact in an office environment. Since communication is a vital aspect of organizational behavior, if attribution theory is present and impacts that communication, it will impact how a company functions.

Internal and External Attributes

Attribution theory can be divided up into two different sections, internal and external attributes. When we are discussing internal attributes, we are saying that the behavior is being caused by something inside the person. Conversely, external attributes point to the cause of the behavior to be the situation, not the person. Thus, we as individuals look at the situation and in our minds view it as either the person or the persons reacting to a situation, which are similar to the examples we just spoke about.

Three Determinants of this Theory

As we try to understand the causes for the actions of others, we must look at three aspects that help us to understand those actions. Those three areas are consistency, distinctiveness and consensus. Let's take a look at these first.

First, let's look at consistency. Well, just like it sounds, it's consistency. As it relates to attribution theory, we are trying to figure out if the person acting the way they are would act the same way given the exact same set of circumstances. If the person does act the same way when given the same set of circumstances, we can say they are consistent or that consistency is high. If they do not, we can assume that they are inconsistent and consistency is low. So, if a person is in a meeting at work and is talking a lot, and we put them in another group of people outside of work and they continue to talk a lot, they are consistent in their behavior.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Click "next lesson" whenever you finish a lesson and quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate,and you'll be done before you know it.
1
The first step is always the hardest! Congrats on finishing your first lesson. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
5
Way to go! If you watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day you'll master your goals before you know it. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
10
Congratulations on earning a badge for watching 10 videos but you've only scratched the surface. Keep it up! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
20
You've just watched 20 videos and earned a badge for your accomplishment! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
50
You've just earned a badge for watching 50 different lessons. Keep it up, you're making great progress! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
100
You just watched your 100th video lesson. You have earned a badge for this achievement! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
200
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 200th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
300
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 300th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
500
You are a superstar! You have earned the prestigious 500 video lessons watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
1K
Incredible. You have just entered the exclusive club and earned the 1000 videos watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
20
You have earned a badge for watching 20 minutes of lessons.
50
You have earned a badge for watching 50 minutes of lessons.
100
You have earned a badge for watching 100 minutes of lessons.
250
You have earned a badge for watching 250 minutes of lessons.
500
You have earned a badge for watching 500 minutes of lessons.
1K
You have earned a badge for watching 1000 minutes of lessons.
Support