Social Attribution Theory is a psychological concept that helps us understand how people interpret and explain the behavior of others. According to this theory, people tend to make judgments about the causes of behavior based on certain internal or external factors. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of Social Attribution Theory and its relevance in our daily lives.

Internal vs. External Factors

The Social Attribution Theory suggests that people tend to attribute behavior to either internal or external factors. Internal factors are those that derive from within an individual, such as personality traits or characteristics. On the other hand, external factors are those that come from outside an individual, such as environmental circumstances or situational factors.

For instance, if someone performs well in a job interview, we may attribute it to their intelligence or hard work (internal factors). However, if someone performs poorly in an interview, we may blame it on the interviewer’s attitude or the tough questions asked (external factors).

Attribution Errors

Despite our best efforts to make accurate judgments about others’ behavior, we often fall prey to attribution errors. These errors occur when we make incorrect assumptions about the causes of someone’s actions.

One common attribution error is the fundamental attribution error. This occurs when we overemphasize internal factors and underestimate external ones when explaining someone’s behavior.

For example, if someone is late for a meeting, we might assume that they are lazy or disorganized (internal factor) rather than considering that they might have encountered unforeseen traffic on their way (external factor).

Cultural Differences

It is important to note that Social Attribution Theory can vary across different cultures. Some cultures tend to rely more heavily on internal attributions (such as individualistic cultures), while others emphasize external attributions (such as collectivistic cultures).


In conclusion, Social Attribution Theory provides us with valuable insights into how we perceive and explain the behavior of others. By understanding the different factors that influence our judgments, we can avoid making incorrect assumptions and improve our communication and relationships with others.