Meaning of Attribution

If we analyze the etymology of the term attribution, we must turn to the Latin language and its word attributio. Attribution is called the act of attributing: indicating the competence of something, assigning qualities or properties to something or someone.

The idea of attribution is usually used with respect to the powers that an entity has according to the regulations that govern its operation. For example: “Budget control is an attribution of this commission”, “Direct hiring of employees is not an attribution of legislators”, “I have the power to suspend you and even to fire you: I recommend that you start paying attention to my instructions if you don’t want to have problems ”.

An attribution also consists of imputing a work or an action to a person, affirming that he is responsible. Many times the attributions are made in the wrong way and wrongly point to the author in question.

Suppose a journalist attributes the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, written by the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, to the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa. Noticing the ruling, another journalist comments: “You have made a mistake in the attribution: ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is a book by García Márquez, not by Vargas Llosa.

This type of error usually occurs with regard to old works, especially those that were written when the publishing world did not have a solid organization. In fact, in some cases it is not possible to point out the author with certainty, but it is deduced after deep investigations carried out by specialists who analyze both the literary style of the work as well as the historical context and the data they have on the writers of the time.

In the field of social psychology, the notion of attribution theory is used to refer to how humans evaluate their behavior and the behavior of other individuals.

The main author of the attribution theory was the psychologist Fritz Heider, and it can be seen in his book entitled ” The psychology of interpersonal relationships “, where he presented it as a useful method to evaluate the aforementioned perception of behavior.

If we delve further into his theory, it is not only a way of studying the way in which we explain our behavior and that of others, but also life events. This is what social psychology refers to by the name attributive process, and in this context Heider explains that we tend to relate alien behavior to one of two possible causes: external (the context, an act of a third subject, chance, etc.) or internal (intelligence, personality, motivation, etc.).

Attribution theory recognizes the following elements:

* internal or external locus: it is a property that Heider relates to our self-esteem. For example, people who make internal attributions to their own achievements gain in self-esteem and motivation, while those who attribute their failures to personal issues suffer a considerable loss of self-esteem. The locus is considered external when the result does not depend on the subject, but is due to external factors;

* Stability: this concept refers to the assessment made by the subject of the state that the problem he faces presents over time. If you attribute your failure to issues that you consider stable, such as the difficulty of a subject of study, your achievement motivation drops;

* controllability: in this case, it does not matter how stable the problem is over time, but whether the subject has the possibility of controlling the factors related to it, whether or not they depend on their actions. For example, if someone attributes their failure to their alleged bad luck, then their achievement motivation decreases.