Accountability: A social check on the fundamental attribution error.

  title={Accountability: A social check on the fundamental attribution error.},
  author={Philip E. Tetlock},
  journal={Social Psychology Quarterly},
  • P. Tetlock
  • Published 1 September 1985
  • Psychology
  • Social Psychology Quarterly
Previous attitude-attribution studies indicate that people are often quick to draw conclusions about the attitudes and personalities of others-even when plausible external or situational causes for behavior exist (an effect known as the overattribution effect or fundamental attribution error). This experiment explores whether accountability-pressures to justify one's causal interpretations of behavior to others-reduces or eliminates this bias. Subjects were exposed to an essay that supported or… 
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Preexposure-accountability subjects reported more integratively complex impressions of test-takers, made more accurate behavioral predictions, and reported more appropriate levels of confidence in their predictions than did either no-Accountability or postexposure- accountability subjects.


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The tendency that has become widely recognized as "the fundamental attribution error" may represent neither an error nor a fundamental tendency in social perception. Contrary to the assumption