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Lee et al. (1977) - Fundamental Attribution Error

Aim: See if student participants would make fundamental attribution error, even though they knew that all actors were simply playing a role.
Method: Participants were randomly assigned to one of three roles: a game show host, contestants on game show or members of the audience. The game show hosts were instructed to design their own questions. They audience then watched the show through the series of questions.
When show was over, observers were asked to rank intelligence of people taken part.
Results: They consistently ranked the game show host as most intelligent. They failed to attribute the role to the person’s situation, instead attributed the person’s performance to dispositional factors.
Evaluation:

  • The sample is problematic, they only made use of student participants
  • University students spend their days listening to professors, who are seen as authorities who ask questions and give answers and is not a learned response rather than attribution error.
  • Question… if findings are generalizable.
  • However it can reflect what we see in everyday life… people with social power usually initiate and control conversations. Medical doctors and teachers are often seen as experts and when they publish something outside their field, their work is rarely challenged.
  • Miller discovered that Indian-Hindus took situational factors into account for explaining actions of when someone has done wrong, juxtaposing how FAE applies to Americans.
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