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Group Attribution Error

 

Explanations > Theories > Group Attribution Error

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

 

Description

Groups tend to behave in many ways like individuals, making decisions in similar ways. However, the rules for group decisions are not necessarily the same as for the individuals within the group.

The group attribution error occurs where it is assumed that individuals in the group agree with the decisions of the group. When people make decisions in groups they often follow group rules and are influenced by the social dynamic within the group at the time, thus downplaying their own real preferences.

Attribution often tends to be done at group level, whether in-group or out-group, assuming that those within an identified group think in the same way. This helps us talk about 'them' as a coherent concept, but falsely assuming that people within the group are more similar than they actually are.

Example

Business meetings are a minefield of bias and false attribution, often with decisions forced by individual members. Yet the whole team may well be seen as owning the decision, including by themselves and by others.

So what?

Using it

Just because a team has made a decision, don't assume that everyone agrees. You can change decisions by approaching individuals.

Defending

When in a group, you don't have to buy into decisions made. Also beware of others assuming that you agree with decisions the group makes.

See also

Attribution Theory, Fundamental Attribution Error, Groupthink, Self-Serving Bias, Stereotypes

References

Allison and Messick (1985), Hewstone (1989)

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