The authors argue that attribution patterns reflect implicit theories acquired from induction and socialization and hence differentially distributed across human cultures. In particular, the authors tested the hypothesis that dispositionalism in attribution for behavior reflects a theory of social behavior more widespread in individualist than collectivist cultures. Study 1 demonstrated that causal perceptions of social events but not physical events differed between American and Chinese students. Study 2 found English-language newspapers were more dispositional and Chinese-language newspapers were more situational in explanations of the same crimes. Study 3 found that Chinese survey respondents differed in weightings of personal dispositions and situational factors as causes of recent murders and in counterfactual judgments about how murders might have been averted by changed situations. Implications for issues in cognitive, social, and organizational psychology are discussed.

Michael Morris and K. Peng
Journal Article
Publication Date
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Full Citation

Morris, Michael and K. Peng
. “Culture and cause: American and Chinese attributions for social and physical events.”
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, (January 01, 1994):