Personality and situation antecedents to attributions and behaviors in a locus of control/causality domain

Document Type



Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor's Name

Luis A. Escovar

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Gary Moran

Third Advisor's Name

Fernando Gonzalez-Reigosa


Personality and situation, Attribution (Social psychology), Personality assessment

Date of Defense



This thesis is a constructive attempt to unravel the dilemma posed by Mischel's (1968) work with trait and state theories of personality, through the use of a novel design. Mischel found a failure to predict behavior incrementally from inferences about underlying traits (personalities) and states (situations). This impasse is demonstrated in attribution theory by the difference between Kelley's (1967) emphasis on environmental cues (i.e., consistency, consensus, and distinctiveness) in attributional situations, and Russell's (1982) search for an attributional style (specific to the individual). This thesis shows the relative influence of the situation and one's personality in attributions to a successful subordinate. Subjects were 527 psychology students at Florida International University (FIU). They completed James' (1957) Internal-External (I-E) Locus of Control Scale, to distinguish between internal, mid-range, and external personalities. Each subject read one of the vignettes about an army event that varied according to Kelley's (1967) (1) internal, (2) ambiguous, and (3) external patterns, and was asked to make an attribution about the depicted event (i.e., they completed the locus of causality subscale of the Causal Dimension Scale [CDS]). These attribution making scores constitute a major dependent variable of interest. The degree of attributional difficulty experienced by the subject and the evaluative disposition of the subject toward the actions in the vignette were tapped as opportunistic dependent variables. Afterwards, subjects indicated their willingness to complete evaluative forms on the subordinates in the vignettes. This measured the subject's willingness to reward the subordinate, and constitutes another dependent variable of major interest in this study. MANOVA was used to account for the variance in the dependent variables (i.e., attribution making, attributional difficulty, evaluative disposition, and evaluative behavior). The 3 X 4 (personality X situation) MANOVA showed that the situation significantly accounted for the variance in all four dependent variables, while the subjects' personality significantly accounted for attributional difficulty and evaluative disposition. I discuss the possibility that personality distinguished the more private cognitions (since those analyses were significant) from the more public cognitions (which were not significant). I conclude that the strong situational influence supports Mischel's findings. Future researchers would do well to utilize an integrated research design (as this study has done) with processes involving personality and situation antecedents.




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