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Abstract

Studies that examine causal attributions for acts by ingroup and outgroup members are reviewed. The tendency for attributions to favour ingroup over outgroup members is found in three paradigms — explanations for positive and negative outcomes, success and failure, and group differences — and in most of the 19 studies reviewed, but the evidence provides only limited support for Pettigrew's (1979) ‘ultimate attribution error’. The evidence is limited to specific dimensions in a given study, but strongest for three general findings: (1) More internal attribution for positive acts, and less internal attribution for negative acts, by ingroup than outgroup members; (2) More attribution of outgroup than ingroup failure to lack of ability, and ‘explaining away’ outgroup success to good luck, high effort or an easy task; (3) A preference for ingroup-serving versus outgroup-serving attributions for group differences. Finally, theoretical issues and methodological shortcomings are discussed with reference to future research.