Predicting the interpersonal targets of self-serving attributions.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Paul Silvia, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: People will, under certain conditions, attribute failure to an external target to avoid an unfavorable self-evaluation. But to what external target do people attribute failure? Based on Fritz Heider’s analysis of similarity and attribution, we predicted that failure—a negative event—would be attributed to a similarly negative external target. Participants worked on a task ostensibly created by three other people and received failure feedback. Self-awareness was either high or low, and people believed that their likelihood of improving in the future was either high or low. The valence of the fictional group members was manipulated such that one member was positive, another was mildly negative, and the third was highly negative. As in past research, highly self-aware persons who could not improve their failure attributed failure externally, relative to the other conditions. Consistent with Heider’s analysis, these participants perceived the negative group members as being responsible for their failure relative to self and the positive group member. Implications for the self-serving bias are discussed.

Additional Information

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37, 333-340
Language: English
Date: 2001
Failure, Self-evaluation, Interpersonal targets, Self-serving attributions

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