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Abstract

Psychological studies on unemployment in the 1930's and the 1970's and 1980's have concentrated on the psychological impact of unemployment on such things as people's health, self-esteem and social interaction. Furthermore studies have, not unnaturally, concentrated almost exclusively on the unemployed neglecting the employed altogether. Very few studies have concerned the range and determinants of lay explanations or attributions about the causes of unemployment. This study set out to examine differences in the explanations for unemployment as a function of whether people were employed or unemployed, as well as their age, sex, education and voting pattern, The results showed a predictable pattern of differences between the employed and unemployed, the former believing more in individualistic explanations and less in societal explanations than the latter. Whereas there were few sex and age differences, education and vote revealed numerous differences in explanations for unemployment. As in the case with explanations for poverty, Conservatives found individualistic explanations for unemployment more important than Labour voters who in turn found societal explanations more important than Conservative voters. Results were discussed in terms of the psychology of explanations, political socialization and the experience of unemployment. Problems in this study as well as the limitations and difficulties in research of the kind were also discussed.