Anderson, C.A., & Deuser, W.E. (1993).

The primacy of control in causal thinking and attributional style: An attributional functionalism perspective.

In G. Weary, F. Gleicher, & K. Marsh (Eds.), Control motivation and social cognition (pp. 94-121). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Summary

Our goal in writing this chapter was to explore the metacognitive question ÒWhy ask why?Ó from a functionalist perspective. Both attribution processes (i.e., How are attributions made?) and attributional processes (i.e., What are the consequences of particular attributions?) are examined. Furthermore, the functionalism of asking ÒwhyÓ questions is examined from both the actor and the observer perspectives. We suggest that the attribution process consists of multiple stages, that it can be carried out quickly, spontaneously, and with little awareness, and that prior beliefs and expectations contribute to the outcome. Our functional analysis also suggests that the causes people most frequently use are likely to vary along two primary dimensions: Controllability and locus. The controllability dimension is the most important dimension because it most directly guides our future actions. The locus dimension is also important because of its links to action and to the anticipated reactions of others (observers). Multidimensional scaling and cluster analyses of spontaneously generated attributions support these predictions. Our functionalism approach also predicts that the controllability and (to a lesser extent) the locus of attributions would be the best dimensional predictors of attributional effects. Recent data support these predictions as well, contradicting several dominant theoretical models including learned helplessness. Implications for refinement of attribution and attributional process models, as well as for therapeutic interventions in attribution-relevant clinical problems, are discussed.

© 1993 by Craig A. Anderson.

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