Attribution Theory and Arab Images of the Gulf War Daniel Heradstveit and G. Matthew Bonham
Daniel Heradstveit and G. Matthew Bonham,“Attribution Theory and Arab Images of the Gulf War”Political Psychology (1996) 17, 271-292.
The Study of Social Attribution “Naïve Scientist” Framework “Constructivist Thinker” Other Ways of Thinking about Cognitive Mastery e.g., Self-Serving Biases
Fundamental Attribution Error “A tendency to underestimate the impact of situational factors and to overestimate the role of dispositional factors in controlling behavior.” (Jones and Nisbett 1977)
The “British School” Approach Social Representations Shared Knowledge Structures (Hewstone, 1989)
Theoretical Problems No comprehensive theoretical structure to explain the “fundamental attribution error” No “falsifiable” cognitive theory
Methodological Problems Laboratory experiments with captive populations.Forced-choice, closed ended measurement scales.Coding situational-dispositional distinctions
Hypothesis “Observers, as contrasted to actors,will attribute socially desirable behavior of others to situational factors and social undesirable behavior of others to dispositional factors” (Monson and Snyder, 1977).
Research Expectation Arab elites, observers of behavior in the Gulf War, should be inclined to explain the actions of the Coalition in situational terms that imply no dispositions beyond those typical of most actors, while attributing Iraqi actions to dispositional or personal factors that are idiosyncratic or unique.
Interviewing and Sampling Politicians, Civil Servants, and Journalists in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia (n = 32)
Results Explanations of the Coalition’s Behavior Realist perspective Geopolitical interests of the USA
Results Explanations of Iraq’s Behavior Warlike culture Hussein as an autocratic leader
Explanations of the Coalition’s Behavior Situational Dispositional All Respondents 68% 32% Morocco/Tunisia 87 13 Egypt 56 44
Explanations Iraq’s Behavior Situational Dispositional All Respondents 36% 64% Morocco/Tunisia 47 53 Egypt 10 90
Conclusions The theoretical paradigm is too simple. Construals can be treated as pre-understandings that represent the collective representations of a culture. The source of meaning may reside in the linguistic practices that are common to a group, organization, or culture.