The use of facilities at the University of Oxford during the first author's sabbatical leave, financial assistance from the Australian Research Grants Commission, and the help of Sall Swain in analyzing the data are gratefully acknowledged.
Lay Explanations of Wealth: Attributions for Economic Success1
Article first published online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 12, Issue 5, pages 381–397, October 1982
How to Cite
Forgas, J. P., Morris, S. L. and Furnham, A. (1982), Lay Explanations of Wealth: Attributions for Economic Success. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 12: 381–397. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1982.tb00873.x
- Issue published online: 31 JUL 2006
- Article first published online: 31 JUL 2006
The explanations people give for wealth, or financial success, are not only of considerable political importance, but also offer an opportunity to assess some of the implications of attribution theory in a real-lie setting. In the present study, 324 subjects from all walks of life and a variety of socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds were asked to anonymously complete an extensive questionnaire assessing their (a) free response explanations of the most common sources of wealth, (b) estimates of necessary income levels for “wealth” and “a decent life,” and (c) attribution judgments for likely causes of wealth in five target categories of people. The target categories were manipulated in terms of social class and ethnicity, to include native born and migrant, and middle- and working-class characters, as well as attributions to an unspecified other. Results showed that judges used four major attributional categories in explaining wealth (external-social, internal/individual, family background, and luck-risk factors), and that both the target persons' class and ethnicity significantly influenced the attribution strategies used. In addition, the judges' socioeconomic background, demographic position, and voting preferences also significantly affected preferred attributions and estimates of income levels. These results are discussed in terms of the role of social, political, and ideological factors in everyday explanations, and their implications for some assumptions of attribution research are considered.