An experiment was conducted to test implications of Kelley's cube, self-serving bias, and positivity bias formulations for attributions associated with success and failure on a test of "abstract reasoning." Subjects either experienced or observed outcomes on three tasks. They then made attributions for only the third outcome, which was either a success or a failure. The first task was of the same type and had the same outcome as the third task, thus providing the information that the outcome being attributed was high in consistency. The second task was of a different type than the first and third tasks, and its outcome either did or did not differ from their outcomes, thus varying information about the distinctiveness of the outcome being attributed. Consensus was manipulated by presenting false norms, ostensibly from a previous experiment. In contrast to previous research, the present study included thorough checks on all of these informational manipulations. Regardless of attributor role (actor or observer), subjects attributed success more to internal than to external factors and attributed failure more to external than to internal factors. These findings indicate a general bias toward positive evaluations. Discussion centers on possible alternative interpretations of these findings, restrictions on their generality, and the limitations that they seem to impose on the applicability of the other two formulations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science