The Applicant Attribution-Reaction Theory (AART): An Integrative Theory of Applicant Attributional Processing

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Abstract

This article proposes a new theory called the Applicant Attribution-Reaction Theory (AART) to better understand attributional processes in the formation of applicant reactions. The theory proposes that applicants' affective, behavioral, and cognitive reactions, such as fairness, test perceptions, test performance, and motivation, are fundamentally driven by an attributional process. A key implication of the theory is that perceptions such as fairness and test attitudes carry little explanatory power; instead they are consequences of attributional processing. We provide a brief review of dominant applicant reactions frameworks, review the social psychological literature on attributions, and present the theory. We then contrast the theory to existing conceptualizations, and finally describe its potential for better understanding several key topics in applicant reactions, including the justice judgment process, test performance, and racial subgroup differences. The theory has the potential to integrate many diverse perspectives on applicant reactions, and provides numerous directions for future research and practice.

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