Affective attributions for psychological well-being: Pre-existing biases predict attributions of control, responsibility and credit.
Objectives: Previous research has identified a hierarchy of attributions for negative but preventable health outcomes (e.g. HIV/AIDS), from control, through responsibility, to blame, which becomes increasingly reliant upon subjective biases. This study investigated whether attributions of control, responsibility and credit for a positive outcome followed a comparably influenced systematic sequence. Design: A vignette-based questionnaire design was implemented. Primary outcome variables were scores on measures of attributions of control, responsibility and credit in response to the positive outcome described in a vignette. Additional variables were measured in order to investigate the reliance of attributions on pre-existing affective, behavioural, and attitudinal biases. Methods: Following their reading of a vignette describing an active pursuit of well-being, a self-selected sample of 144 adults completed online questionnaires measuring attributions of control, responsibility and credit. Measures of happiness, social acceptance, behaviour change, mental health locus of control, and just world beliefs were also completed. Results: Attributions of credit were significantly greater than those of control (p<.001) or responsibility (p<.001), whereas control and responsibility did not differ significantly. Happiness and mental health locus of control uniquely predicted attributions of control (ps<.05) and responsibility (ps<.005), whereas happiness (p=.002) and behaviour change (p=.049) uniquely predicted attributions of credit. Although a hierarchy for positive attributions was evidenced, findings suggest that biases, which deviate from systematic cognitive processing, are inherent to attributional reasoning. Conclusions: Future research is warranted to advance theories of positive attribution processes, with anticipated research impact for informing public policy and promoting observable behaviours that characterise psychological well-being.
Citation:Sparks, E. and Wildbur, D.J. (2016) Affective attributions for psychological well-being: Pre-existing biases predict attributions of control, responsibility and credit.
Research Group:Health Psychology