Attribution Error as a Function of Stress and Freedom of Choice
Various factors determine the frequency with which people commit fundamental attribution error. Other these situational factors contribute largely to the misjudgment of other people. This study investigates the effects of the level of stress on the likeliness of people to commit FAE. Also the disposition to commit FAE when participants were informed of the freedom of choice of the essay authors was measured. Then the researched investigated the effect of interaction of the mentioned IV on the frequency of participants to commit FAE.
The study enrolled 15 students from the university of California to investigate the phenomenon. The results of the study revealed that participant were more likely to commit more FAE when informed that the writers argued their position freely than if the authors were coerced to argue a specific stance. On the other hand, the result showed variation difference between the groups. High stress group commited more FAE in situation where authors freely chose their stance than low stress group,who in turn commited more FAE than the former group in situation where authors were coerced to argue a specific stance. The findings of this study highlights the need to consider situational factors in context of psychoanalysis and court cases.
Fundamental Attribution Error as a Function of Stress and Freedom of Choice
The fundamental attribution error is a common phenomenon in our day-to-day life. This phenomenon often lead to serious consequences against people whose integrity are questionable. Some factors have been shown to influence the tendency of committing an FAE. This study will use 2 × 2 within-subject design to investigate the way situational factors influence the frequency of committing FAE.
A key component of attribution theory is the fact that individuals understand behaviour to be a product of an actor’s individual disposition and the limiting or promoting characteristics of the situation that the behaviours manifest (Kelley, 1967, cited in Gilbert, Jones & Austin, 1986, p. 3). Behaviours arising mainly because of situational obstacles are alleged to be uninformative in relevance to the distinct predisposition of the actor toward the behaviour. Nevertheless, many research findings have indicated a general tendency to attribute corresponding tendencies to actors with behaviours that may be described wholly from an approach of constraining situational emergencies. Jones and Davis (1965 cited in Gilbert, Jones & Austin, 1986, p. 3) states that individuals tend to be biased on correspondent inferences.
Researchers have captured the phenomenon through experiments that require a participant to take a specific action, such as write an argumentative essay in support of a specific ideology. Then naïve judges are implored to approximate the size and direction of the subject’s dispositional inclination to exhibit such behaviour, in which case, is his political approach. Attribution rationale proposes that because the subject, with disregard to his real attitude, at that point in time, will most likely comply with the prompt of the investigator.
The most accurate estimate of the subject’s attitude represents the standard of the population. On the other hand, participants show an inclination under such situation to assign correspondent dispositions, indicating that subject does hold an opinion deviating from the standard towards the position he was compelled to defend. Similar findings have been reported across different conceptional or theoretical frameworks and attributional domains, confirming the ubiquity of commonality of correspondence bias in attributional inference. According to Quattrone (1982a, p. 376 cited in Gilbert, Jones & Austin, 1986, p. 3), an individual’s disposition to emphasize personal over circumstantial attributions for other people’s behaviour is equally robust and reliable as other phenomenon in the literature on perception of an individual.
In a research to evaluate the whether, there is a correlation between mood and the disposition to commit FAE, Forgas (1998) depicted that sadness reduces the probability to commit FAE while happiness elevates the chances of committing the same. The report by Forgas demonstrates the significance of mood as it influences the judgment of people because of diverse style of processing. Optimistic moods cause people to process situations by focusing initially on the most obvious and obtainable information. In the same vein, pessimistic mood makes people to evaluate carefully situational contributors and refocus judgmental attributions consistently.
Because the research report by Forgas (1998) endorsed the idea of a likelihood of a correlation between mood and committing FAE, this study will aim to investigate correlation between FAE` and the state of mind of people. Consequently, we opted to investigate the impact of stress on the disposition of committing FAE.
Parallel to the supposition, the incidence of FAE will vary with the level of stress, whereby high stressed subjects will have a higher propensity of committing FAE compared to low stressed subjects. The rationale underlying this proposition is that individuals with high level of stress tend to be less likely to evaluate and regard information that is inaccessible and, on the other hand, process information in a top-down approach wherein they over look situational elements leading to increased incidence of FAE. Subjects are disposed to commit increased number of FAE when they are informed that the authors deliberately chose to write their excerpts because they could not recognize and even account for other elements that might have forged the opinions of the writers on the topic. In the same line, if the subject reads the excerpts in which he is informed that the writer was coerced into writing the essay thereby reducing the chances of committing FAE since the essay is clearly not an accurate reflection of the opinion of the author.
Under low stress predictors, subjects will commit the increased FAE if the writers chose their position devoid of any influence compared to if they were coerced to declare an opinion. The experiment conducted by Forgas (1998), which was a prediction experiment, investigated the correlation between mood the propensity of committing FAE. This research showed that sadness reduced the likelihood of committing FAE, while happiness elevates the likelihood of committing FAE. Forgas reports demonstrate the significance of mood because it influences the judgment of people because of diverse styles of processing.
Optimistic moods make people process situations by initially concentrating on the most obvious and obtainable information. Comparatively, pessimistic moods make people to assess carefully situational elements and reconsider judgmental attributions. This is based on the central effect of freedom of choice and it accounts for the effect of low stress levels to be least in transforming the association between the dual levels of the variable in question.
Subjects under the high stress situation will commit a larger amount of FAE with respect to writers who deliberately expressed their opinion relative to those writers whom the experimenter coerced to write their essays. High stress in conjunction with the freely chosen essays of authors tend to induce the subjects to leave out situational elements and feel compelled to attribute the author’s opinion his or her personality instead of likely contributors. In general, the experiment is based on Forgas (1998) results of his research to investigate the relationship between mood and the likelihood of committing FAE.
Because the data and the findings of the study by Forgas (1998) were consistent with the assumption of the author, this experiment will likely depict are more or less similar findings with regard to stress and the likelihood of committing FAE.
This study seeks to investigate the relationship between disposition to commit Fundamental Attribution Error and the level of stress and freedom of choice. This study sought to test three hypotheses. These hypotheses capture various situational factors. One hypothesis addresses the main effect of each independent variable and another for their interaction. Consequently, the researchers designed the following hypothesis.
Hypothesis 1: There will be a major effect of freedom of choice of what position to take regarding the ideology, such that when the author has not been assigned their position about the topic the participants will be disposed to commit more FAE compared to when the author has been assigned a topic. The likelihood of committing FAE was high when the authors were given the freedom of expression of their opinion (M=6) in the essay compared to when the writers were coerced (M=3.5) into taking a specific position in the essay writing.
Hypothesis2: There will be a main effect of the level of stress, such that when the subjects are exposed to a situation of high stress they will tend to commit more FAE than when they are exposed to a low stress situation. The subjects in the high stress situation will be disposed to commit more FAE (M=5) than those exposed to situation of low stress (M=4.5).
Hypothesis 3: This hypothesis describes the prediction for the interaction of the two independent variables. When the participants will be exposed to the low stress situation, they will commit more FAE with respect to authors who are not coerced into taking a position when writing the essay compared to those who were coerced into the same. In addition, subjects exposed to the high a stress situation will commit a considerable greater amount of FAE in respect to authors who are free to choose their position in the essay writing compared to those who were coerced to take a specific position in writing.
15 students from the university of California in Los Angeles were enrolled for this study. The participants are taking psychology at the university. 4 of these subjects were males while 11 were female.
The researchers of the study applied a 2 × 2 within-subject design. The study applies stress, high and low, and freedom of choice, whether coerced or free, as independent variables (IV). Controlled feedback concerning result on a math exam is employed to trigger high or low stress.
Materials and Apparatus
Various materials will be required to implement this study. First, a 12-page math problem will be used induce low and high stress situation. Second, essays with four different topics, including Nazi concentration camps, Rwanda genocide, assassination of Martin Luther King, and the 9/11 attacks. Other tools comprise of questions intended to capture the nature of the opinion participants hold on writers of the essay based on five categories, including likable-dislikable, intelligent-unintelligent, competent-incompetent, open minded- close minded, considerate-Inconsiderate. A timer will be necessary to time the test. The timer measures as a small as 0.01 sec. Scratch paper was issued alongside the exams for the participants to complete the test.
15 participants got either the difficult or easy math problems; 15 participants for MLK essay; 15 participants in Rwanda genocide; 15 participants got 9/11 attacks; and 15 Participants were given 1 minute to complete math problems that were either a set of easy math problems or difficult ones. Afterwards participants receive manipulated results of either failing or acing the math problems to generate stress and mood. Then, participants were told whether essay had been freely written or coerced before they were given the essay to read. After two minutes of reading the essay, participants were stopped to answer a 30-second evaluation of the essay and the writer. The evaluation of a writer is based on six categories. The result created ratings each on a seven-point scale. These steps were repeated until all 4 The evaluations of the separate groups according the high/low stress and coerced/free-choice wring were averaged to find how stress and mood contributed to FAE.
We began the experiment with the view that stress levels can contribute to the level of the Fundamental Attribution error (FAE). There were 15 participants in this experiment. They were subjected to four conditions and there were responses were recorded to provide the basis for inference. From the table below it has been previously proven that high stress levels give less room for high Fundamental Attribution error (FAE) and at low stress levels, there is a chance that the respondent will make more Fundamental Attribution error (FAE). With reference to, the fact in which respondents were told based on the writer wrote an article, whether coerced or was free to choose their position. It was determined that those who freely chose their position regarding the topic to write about had a high chance of being wrongly evaluated by the respondent and therefore high chance of committing Fundamental Attribution error (FAE) while those that were coerced into writing.
There were two kinds of variables, independent variables and the dependent variables. The independent variables include the stress levels (High and Low) and secondly the freedom of choice (free and coerced). The dependent variable is the Fundamental Attribution error (FAE). To set the stress level an easy or difficult math test was given to the respondent so that the desired stress level is achieved for instance low stress level for easy questions as the respondent could easily get all the questions right and difficult questions for high stress levels.
The second independent variable was achieved such that the respondent was given an opinion on whether the writer of the article wrote in his free will or not. A t test was carried out to determine whether there was a difference in their means and see whether the results are statistically significant in their difference. The t test carried out came up with the following results summarized in the table below.
FREECOERCEDAverage HIGH5.88>>3.544.71LOW5.19>4.304.75Average 5.54>3.92 FIGURE 1
From the experiment it was determined that there was an effect depending on the independent variable freedom of choice and the stress level on the outcome of the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). From the results, it was determined that the independent variable freedom of choice had the most profound effect on the Fundamental Attribution Effect.
From the analysis, the interaction was statistically not significant but a closer look at the trend seems to support the hypothesis. The value of Fundamental Attribution Error of 5 the stress level is at equilibrium (0 stress levels) and this value show that an average person with no stress level experiences a higher FAE value as compared to the coerced counterparts. There are 3 hypotheses, one for the main effect of each independent variable and one for their interaction. There is a main effect of freedom of choice such that participants will be more likely to commit FAE when the authors expressed their opinion freely (M=4.71) in the essay compared to when the authors were coerced into writing the essay (M=4.75). There is also a major effect on the level of stress such that participants in the high stress group will commit more FAE (M=5.88) than those in the low stress group (M=4.3).
When the level of stress was low, the participants who read essays by writers who freely chose to write their essay committed more FAE (M=5.19) than those who read essays by writers who were coerced into writing their essay (M=4.30). Whereas when the level of stress was high, the participants who read essays by authors freely choosing to write their essay committed a significantly greater degree of FAE (M=5.54) than those who read essays by coerced authors (M=3.92). The alpha level of significance for this test was 0.05
Figure 1: Graph of number of FAE committed under interaction of independent variables
The hypothesis of this study presumed that subjects under high stress are likely to commit a higher degree of FAE` than those under low stress situation. The other hypothesis suggest that writers who will be free to choose a position in arguing a topic commit more FAE compared to those who are coerced to take a specific position in arguing an unpopular topic. The findings of this study are consistent with the hypothesis of the study, reinforcing that they are true hypothesis. This finding contradicted the findings of Forgas (1998), which showed that positive mood, designated by happiness, increased the chances for a subject to commit FAE. This IV variable corresponds to lower stress.
Given the low number of participants enrolled in the study, coupled with the fact that they were from a psychology class produced a statistical significance of p > 0.5. Because of the small size sample, caused fatigue of the subjects, demand characteristics and bias of the subjects. The participants are students from psychology class have a pre-knowledge of the expected outcomes of the study and may choose to support the hypothesis or otherwise. In support of Vaus (2002) the small sample used in the study usually do not give statistically significant results because they are prone to a high degree of sampling error. In addition, the gender of the participants was unbalanced meaning that the some inherent factor in female participants may have prevailed and influenced the study outcome.
The interactions of the independent variables seem to reduce the tendency to commit FAE for both groups in favour of the writers who were coerced to take a specific position in arguing one of the unpopular topics. This result is consistent with the hypothesis for interaction of IV. Noteworthy, the effects were even greater in the high stress group as predicted.
The law samples and choice of participants adversely influenced the statistical significance and promoted bias respectively. Thus, in future, this experiment should be replicated to include a larger sample size and subjects from a different discipline rather than psychology should be included as selection criteria. In fact, sample from non-student participants could favor increased external validity of the study results. In addition, the experimenter should consider using a form of motivation to drive and educe a feeling of being pressured from the participants towards completing the math test. More research in the future may be conducted to investigate other factors that influence the disposition to commit FAE.
Because this phenomenon is very common in our day-to-day live, failing to be cautious of situational factors and dispositional factors is destructive and hurtful. Therefore, this study provides insight into understanding factors that affect the tendency to commit FAE thereby help people become more aware and conscious of situation that promote their tendency to incorrectly judge others.
Forgas, J. P. (1998). Happy and Mistaken? Mood Effects on the Fundamentals Attribution Error. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 75, 318-331.
Gilbert, D. T., Jones, E. E. & Austin, T. U. (1986). Perceiver-induced Constraint: Interpretations of Self-Generated Reality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50 (2), 296-280.
Kelley, H. H. (1967). Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Vaus, D. (2002). Analyzing Social Science Data: 50 Key Problems in Data Analysis . London : SAGE Publication Ltd.
Rate the likability of the writer on a seven-point scale
Extremely unpopular (1)Dislikable
(2)Fairly unpopular (3)Neutral
Rate the popularity of the writer on a seven-point scale
Completely unpopular (1)Unpopular
(2)Fairly unpopular (3)Neutral
Rate the intelligence of the writer on a seven-point scale
Extremely unintelligent (1)Unintelligent
(2)Fairly unintelligent (3)Neutral
Rate the competence of the writer on a seven-point scale
Extremely Tense (1)Tense
(2)Fairly Tense (3)Neutral
Rate the mental state of the writer on a seven-point scale
Rate the confidence of the writer on a seven-point scale
FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERRORS 7
Running head: FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR 1
Analysis of Student’s Posts
In the first post by Pedro Naranjo, it is exciting to note how hidden agenda is shadowed by an open case of interest. According to this post, Naranjo states that Spaniards had inner motivation, other than the open spiritual war that they gauged against Indians. Spaniards were not really fighting for religions righteousness, but wanted the Indians as their slaves, who would do whatever they wished. The war against Indians by the Spaniards was agitated by self-greed but remained hidden under greed and self-interest. In addition the massacre of Spaniard priests and soldiers further fuelled violence and mistrust between these two social quarters.
The second post relates to a woman who extremely evil. Evil doers were prosecuted and subsequently subjected to a death penalty. The woman named Bridget had gone contrary to the social expectations since she engaged in evil, something that contravened social standing in the society. The contradictions generated in this scenario accounts to the highest social hypocrisy, since evil doing had reservation of races or personality.
In addition, English law being firmly rooted on religion and service to God outlined People’s morality and expected behavioral norms. Social vices like drunkenness was equally against the law and its commission sanctioned heavy punishments. Cases of morality were most common among Indians compared to their European Counterparts.
Greed and dissatisfaction started at the time that America was under discovery. During this period, Europeans had developed a sense of greed and extended it to amass wealth in another country, presumably the country of social destiny. The result effect of greed is adverse and regrettable to the face of human beings. Misery and disappointment marred these immigrants as a result of their ill-motivated exodus into the America; this aspect is revealed through Richard’s letter to his parents back in Europe.