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Abstract

Attribution theory, which was initially applied to the study of academic achievement, has generated a large amount of research in psychology. Judgments of causal responsibility, an important facet of attributions, have since been studied in a variety of other contexts, revealing that they pervade our understanding of the social world. The present paper considers the many ways in which causal judgments, particularly attributions of responsibility, influence political life. Examining scholarship primarily from the fields of psychology, political science, and sociology, I discuss how perceptions of responsibility are linked to ideology and how they influence policy attitudes (welfare, affirmative action, abortion, gay rights) and perceptions of international conflict (beliefs about terrorism and war). An argument is made for increased communication among fields and a more systematic application of attributional models to the study of political judgments.