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Correspondent Inference Theory

 

Explanations > Theories > Correspondent Inference Theory

Description | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When we are making attributions about other people, we compare their actions with alternative actions, evaluating the choices they have made. It is easier for us to make internal attributions when there fewer non-common effects between these choices. That is, when both choices have a lot in common and there are thus fewer things which differentiate them. When the behavior is not what we would have forecast, we assume that it is due to their internal preferences or character traits.

Information about five factors is sought to make these inferences:

  • Whether the behavior being considered is voluntary and freely chosen.
  • What is unexpected about the behavior (‘non-common effects’).
  • Whether the behavior is socially desirable.
  • Whether the behavior impacts the person doing the inferring (‘hedonic relevance’).
  • Whether the behavior is of personal interest to the person doing the inferring (‘personalism’).

Example

A person is choosing between two jobs. They are very similar apart from location and salary. This makes it easier for us to attribute their choice to the person’s individual preferences. If they choose the lower salary job, it is easy for us to assume that the person is not money-driven.

So what?

Using it

When surprised by another person’s actions, it may seem obvious that this is because this is just because of ‘who they are’. We should be careful to look closer in these cases as this may not be true.

See also

Attribution Theory, Covariation Model

References

Jones and Davis (1965)

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