Type of academic training and causal attributions for social problems



To provide evidence of the effects of academic training on causal attributions, university students in social science, commerce and engineering were compared at different points of their training in terms of their explanations of poverty and unemployment. Results of cross-sectional analyses showed no field differences in causal attributions at the beginning of the first academic year but significant differences at the end of the year, with social science students blaming the system more than commerce or engineering students. Longitudinal analysis showed that, within a six-month interval, the causal attributions of the students changed significantly as a function of their field of study. Differential employment prospects, while not accounting for the effects of academic training, were found to be related to attributional change. These results confirm the hypothesis that causal attributions are affected by socialization in a particular culture and that exposure to the culture of the social sciences reinforces a system-blame ideology. The implications of these findings for theories of the attribution process and theories of intergroup relations are discussed.