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Abstract

A theory of lay epistemology is applied toward an integration of attribution theory with cognitive consistency theories. The integration follows a three-fold partition of the epistemic process into its deductive, motivational and contentual aspects. The commonality of the attribution and consistency paradigms is apparent in regard to the deductive aspect: In both frameworks central role is accorded the criterion of deducibility or consistency whereby cognitions are validated. However, attribution theory emphasizes the consequences of consistent information, which increases attributional confidence, whereas cognitive consistency theories emphasize the consequences of inconsistent information, which detracts from judgmental confidence, hence occasionally induces negative affect. The motivational component represents a neglected dimension in attributional theorizing. It also defines the conditions under which inconsistency may be motivating. This may occur where inconsistency (I) fosters doubt where knowledge was strongly desired, (2) undermines a particular desirable conclusion. The differences among the cognitive consistency and the attributional formulations are ones of cognitive content. However, the same epistemic process is assumed common to all attribution and consistency formulations. Potential research benefits of focusing on this common process are noted.