The Moderating Effects of Cognitive Appraisal Processes on Self-Attribution of Responsibility


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to T. Shelley Duval, Department of Psychology, Seely G. Mudd 501, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061. e-mail:


Research indicates that self-attribution of responsibility for various types of problems is affected by a number of variables, including number of bystanders, persuasive communications, and focus of attention. The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that attributions of responsibility are also influenced by cognitive appraisal of sufficiency of resources relative to the magnitude of the problem in question. When circumstances indicate that self is the most plausible locus of responsibility, attribution to self will occur only if the person also assesses his or her resources as being sufficient to fulfill the obligations implied upon locating responsibility for problem solution in self. The converse is also held to be true. Results confirmed this hypothesis. Implications of this theoretical approach for various theories that include attribution of responsibility to self as a critical factor are discussed.