Situational Attribution: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Color Psychology: Tests & Experiments

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

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Is Attribution?
  • 1:35 What Is Situational…
  • 2:51 Examples
  • 4:12 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

In this lesson, we will discuss situational attribution. Learn all about situational attribution from examples. Then test what you have learned with a quiz.

What Is Attribution?

John is a high school honors student on the verge of graduating. Like many high school seniors, John takes a college readiness exam. He hopes that his scores are high enough to get him into his top choice for college. Upon receiving his scores, John discovers that he performed poorly on the exam. His scores are below the minimum cutoff criteria for entrance into his top college choice.

When asked by his counselor why he thinks he did so poorly, John stated that the testing environment was full of distractions like a ticking clock, the room was very hot, and his pencil kept breaking. John reasoned that any person in the exact same situation would have performed poorly. John used situational attribution to explain his performance on the test.

Attributions are our explanations for what caused an event or behavior. Attributions help us make sense of our experiences and our world. Making attributions helps us learn how to relate to other people and things. For example, if we believe that John is able to keep a secret because he is a loyal person, we are more likely to share our secrets with him.

Attributions also help us to predict future outcomes and behaviors. For example, if John cries every time he hears a certain song, and we attribute his crying to hearing the song, then we can predict that in the future, John will continue to cry every time he hears it. It is important to note that attributions are not concerned with actual causes of events, but with what we perceive as the causes. So what types of causes are there?

What Is Situational Attribution?

There are two different types of attributions that we tend to make. Dispositional attributions, also known as internal attributions, are when we believe that an event or behavior is caused by some internal factor, like traits, skills, or personality. Let's think back to John and the college entrance exam. If John had stated that he failed the test because he was not a good student and he did not try his best, he would be using internal attributions.

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

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 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? 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.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account