Conceptual and methodological problems in the analysis of self-serving causal attributions of success and failure

Authors

  • SEPPO E. ISO-AHOLA

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Maryland, USA
      Department of Recreation, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742. USA
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Department of Recreation, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742. USA

Abstract

The present article examined conceptual and methodological foundations of testing the self-serving hypothesis of causal attributions. This analysis revealed a startling fact that neither major reviews (by Bradley, Miller & Ross; Snyder et al.; Weary & Arkin; and Zuckerman) nor other reports have provided a clear and specific definition of the self-serving attributions. Furthermore, methodological defects exist because of such fundamental errors as the use of between-subjects designs, instead of within-subjects designs, in testing the hypothesis. Therefore, the reported experiments simply reflect the researchers' attempts to interpret subjects' attributions as self-serving or non-self-serving. To better understand the nature and scope of self-serving motives in causal attributions, it is essential (1) to take into account attributors' personal definitions of self-serving attributions, (2) to relate the nonreciprocal attributions to social/cultural values about self-serving behaviors, and (3) to determine the role of intentions in causal attributions of success and failure.

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