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Dispositional and Situational Factors

Social life is complex. People need a great deal of historical, cultural, and bio- graphical information if they are to accurately pinpoint the cause of even the most routine happenings. Still, most people form judgments about cause, and take action, without complete information. Attribution theoryexamines the process by which people explain their behavior and that of others. Specifically, people attribute cause to one of two factors: (1) dispositional or (2) situational.

Dispositional factorsare things that people are believed to control, including personal qualities related to motivation, interest, mood, and effort. Situational factorsare things believed to be outside a person's control—such as the weather, bad luck, and another's incompetence. Usually people stress situational factors in explaining their own failures. With regard to others' failures, people tend to emphasize dispositional factors.