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Differences Between Covariation Model and Attribution Theory

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Attribution is the process of concluding the causes of events or behaviors. In another way, attribution refers to a central process in human discrimination which helps to solve philosophical mysteries. According to this mystery, the mind perceives objects in the world, but the perception exists in the mind itself. Attribution influences the way people interact with each other. The father of attribution theory is Fritz Heider. Attribution is classified into internal vs external and stable vs unstable dimensions. In an internal attribution, people reason that an event or a person’s behavior is due to personal factors such as traits, abilities, or feelings. In an external attribution, people reason that a person’s behavior is due to situational factors. When people make a stable attribution, they conclude that an event or behavior is due to unchanging factors. When making an unstable attribution, they conclude that an event or behavior is due to temporary factors.

Kelley’s Covariation Model

Kelley’s covariation model is a theory of attribution where people explain others their behavior through observation. As per Kelley (1973: 108), an effect is attributed to one of its possible causes with which over time, it covaries. This explains that a person’s behavior is acclaimed to causes seen at a certain time. This covariation model is also considered the best-known attribution theory due to his logical model which helped classify a specific action as internal or external.


Attributions are made based on three criteria. Those are consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency. Consensus means the covariation of behaviors across different people. Simply it refers to how people behave in exactly similar ways in similar situations. For instance, if lots of people find Jessica attractive, the consensus is high. But if only john finds Jessica attractive then, the consensus is low. The low consensus is attributed to the person; on the other hand, the high consensus is attributed to the stimulant. In this case, the stimulant is Jessica and the person is john.


The next class of evidence is distinctiveness. This class refers to the uniqueness of the behavior in a particular situation. The distinctiveness is low if the person behaves in the same way in all situations. The distinctiveness is high if the person shows a particular behavior in a particular situation. For example, David praises peters work, and if David rarely praises other people’s work, he shows high distinctiveness. But he praises everyone’s work, this is low distinctiveness. The one attributes the behavior to the person, and in this case, it is David.


The last class of covariation model is consistency. Co variation of behavior across time is referred to as consistency. For instance, if Elsa is angry all the time, she shows high consistency. But if Elsa is rarely angry or angry at specific times, perhaps her workload, she shows low consistency. High consistency is attributed to the person and in this case, Elsa is an angry person. While on the other hand low consistency is attributed to the situation. As per this case, the workload makes people angry. So the result is when we see that two things go hand in hand, it’s safe to assume that one thing causes the other.

Weiner’s Attribution Theory

The next theory of attribution is Weiner’s attribution theory. Weiner evolved a conceptual framework that has become very influential in social psychology today. Attribution theory is concerned with how typical people explain the causes of behavior and events. Bernard Weiner first proposed a theory which states that people’s own attributions to explain their success or failure suggest the efforts they are ready to utilize in the future. A three-stage process underlies an attribution. The states that behavior must be observed, the behavior must be determined to be intentional and behavior attributed to internal or external causes. His theory is mainly about attainment.


Attributions are classified along three causal dimensions. The first performance dimension is locus. Locus dimensions refer to the insight of the cause of any event as internal or external. For example, if a teacher believes that she failed to get a 50% pass result from the subject she is teaching in a class because she lacked professionalism, she is referring to her internal attribution. On the other hand, if she blames the students for not revising, she is referring to the external attribution. People feel a sense of dignity in their achievement when they believe that it was their effort that paid off.


The second dimension is stability. Stability dimensions questions over whether causes change over time or not. It refers to whether the cause of an event is stable or unstable across time and circumstances. From the example above given for locus, if she believed that she failed to get a 50% pass result because of lack of professionalism, the cause is stable. The cause is more stable if she believes that her lack of professionalism is permanent. On the other hand, if she believes that had she not been on sick leave, she could have taught more to the students, the cause is unstable, as the illness is a temporary factor. Attribution in case of failure to stable causes is likely to decrease the confidence and assumptions of the teacher in the future. However, attributions to stable causes or permanent factors are more likely to lead the teacher towards success if the teacher experiences success. In the case of unstable attributions, the dimensions relate to the feelings of the hopefulness of hopelessness. But for stable causes, the teacher believes that the outcome may be different in the future.


The third and the last dimension is controllability. This states that causes one can control such as skills and causes one cannot control such as luck. Simply, it refers to if the cause of an event is under the control of the teacher. From the aforesaid example, if she believes that she could have taught better had she gave more revisions, the cause is controllable. While, if she doubts her teaching ability, the cause is uncontrollable. In these dimensions, shame and culpability are experienced. Teachers who believed they failed to get a 50% pass result because of their lack of effort to teach experience guilt. While those who value themselves worthless are likely to experience feelings of shame.

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Differences Between Covariation Model And Attribution Theory. (2021, May 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from
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