An intrasubject approach to causal attribution


  • This research was supported by a faculty research grant from the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota to Eugene Borgida. David Tukey was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and by a Danforth Graduate Fellowship. The authors are grateful to Ken Dion, Susan Fiske, and Stanley Wasserman for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Eugene Borgida, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, Minn. 55455.


The present investigation draws on the judgment research tradition in order to examine the causal attributions made by individual subjects in an often used attribution task. Formal empirical tests of Kelley's (1967) attribution theory have demonstrated that attributions are influenced by the interaction of consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency information. None of these studies, however, have separately examined attributions made by individual judges. Implicit assumptions about individual differences, for example, have been made by the template-matching model of causal attribution (Orvis, Cunningham, & Kelley, 1975) but have not been scrutinized at the intrasubject level. Log linear modeling of attributions in the present research showed that while subjects were influenced by the causal information in the task, the relation between this information and attributions was more importantly characterized by individual differences than by uniform patterning. The nature of these individual differences and the significance of an idiographic approach to causal analysis are discussed.