The two main types of attributions are internal and external attributions. When an internal attribution is made, the cause of the given behavior is assigned to the individuals personality, attitudes, character, or disposition. When an external attribution is made, the cause of the given behavior is assigned to the situation in which the behavior was seen. The individual producing the behavior did so because of the surrounding environment or the social situation. These two types of attribution lead to very different perceptions of the individual engaging in a behavior. Personal is Internal and Situational is external.
The covariation Model of Attribution looks to three main types of information from which to make an attribution decision about an individual's behavior. The first is consensus information, or information on how other people in the same situation and with the same stimulus behave. The second is distinctiveness information, or how the individual responds to different stimuli. The third is consistency information, or how frequent the individual's behavior can be observed with similar stimulus but varied situations. From these three sources of information observers make attribution decisions on the individual's behavior as either internal or external.
When people try to make attributions about another's behavior, their information focuses on the individual. Their perception of that individual is lacking most of the external factors which might affect the individual. The gaps tend to be skipped over and the attribution is made based on the perception information most salient. The perceptual information most salient dominates a person's perception of the situation.
For an individual making a behavioral attribution about themselves, the situation and external environment is entirely salient for them, but their body and behavior are less so. This leads to the tendency to make an external attribution in regards to one's own behavior.
A tendency to overestimate the extent to which a person's behaviour is due to internal, dispositional factors and to underestimate the role of situational factors.
One plausible reason for this error relates to the perceptual and cognitive salience of the actor as opposed to the situation: that is, observers focus their attention on actors, while the situational causes of the actor's behaviour are less salient and may be unknown.
People tend to assume their features and behaviors are more salient to others than what they generally are. This is termed the Spotlight effect.
Tendency to see other people's actions as internally caused, while focusing more on the role of situational factors when explaining one own's actions - even when explaining the same actions. A widespread of explanation for the actor/observer difference is based on similar perceptual-cognitive factors as that noted for the fundamental attribution error.
The correspondence bias is the inclination to conclude that people's behaviours match their personalities; that is, a bias to not only infer internal causes for behaviour, but to conclude that those internal causes are stable personality characteristics of the actor
Error in attribution involves attributions not to individuals but to whole groups of individuals. The tendency to make dispositional attributions of casuality and correspondent inferences with respect to groups of people - leading to the assumption that whole groups have similar dispositions or personality chateristics. For example, the assumption of positive characteristics causing the behaviour of members in favoured ingroups, and negative characteristics causing the behaviour of disfavoured outgroups has been labelled the ultimate attribution error.
Self-serving attributions are explanations for one's own successess that credit internal, dispositional factors and explanations for one's failures that blame external, situational factors. People tend to make attributions in line with "bad things happen to bad people" and "good things happen to good people" in order to protect their self esteem and prevent feeling vulnerable. This is often referred to the Just World Hypothesis . Defensive attributions are one type of self-serving attribution; they involve explanations for actions or outcomes that are made to avoid feelings of vulnerability and mortality. Unrealistic optimism is a form of defensive attribution in which people think that positive events are more likely to happen to them than to their peers, and that negative events are less likely to happen to them than to their peers.
Various explanations has been offered for prevalence of self-serving biases. One is a general motivational desire to maintain self-esteem. Another concern self-presentation in social relations, suggesting that we exercise self-serving attributions in order to maintain the perceptions others have of us. And a third is a more cognitive view, which is that, because people have information about their own behaviours in other situations in which they have had postive outcomes, this may lead to positive outcomes being expected and negative outcomes being unexpected.
Heider argues that people act as intuitive psychologists, employing commonsense or naive theories about the world and about people. Although all behaviour results from both external and internal forces or processes, we nonetheless have a tendency to explain any one behaviour as caused more by either internal or external factors.
It states that people attempt to make 'correspondent inferences' about others.
Covariation theory assumes that people make causal attributions in a rational, logical fashion, and that they assign the cause of an action to the factor that covaries most closely with that action.
This approach argues that to be attributed as a cause, something must be judged to be unusual or infrequent.