Attribution Theory in Practice

In my psychology class, we have been discussing attribution theory which is the tendency to give causal explanations for someone’s behavior, often by crediting the situation or the person’s disposition. My professor noted that there are distinguished political effects of attribution in which conservatives tend to credit the person’s disposition while liberals tend to credit the situation. I believe that this clearly relates to economic inequality in that, when observing someone of a low socioeconomic status or a beggar in the streets, chances are that the two would have different reactions. Conservatives would be more likely to think that someone is poor due to laziness or incompetence while liberals might reason that a person is poor because he is at a generational disadvantage or because he got laid off work due to the state of the economy.

It’s important to factor in psychology when addressing economic inequality, particularly regarding the political side of the issue. This is because psychology helps explain why people think the way they think and why people’s viewpoints and  proposed solutions differ. Recognizing the political differences in attribution theory strengthened my understanding of why conservatives don’t believe that economic inequality is as grand an issue as liberals perceive it to be. This brings about another important dimension, or piece, to the complex puzzle of economic inequality that I haven’t found in any of my research so far.


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