Attributional pattern amongst men and women

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8 August 2015

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Attribution is the process by which male and females explain causes of events and behaviors. Men and women make different explanatory attributions so that they can understand the world and also seek to reasons for certain events. With the help of explanatory attribution, men and women make judgement based on causes of a certain event or action. They make judgement even if the event turns out that the proposed cause of the event is not related to that event or behavior. People make interpersonal attributions when their actions or their motives are questioned. They are required to explain reasons for their actions. Interpersonal attribution takes place when the cause of event or action takes place between two people. In most cases, one person will want to a positive image, in the interpersonal attribution. An example is given of a sibling who breaks their mothers tea pot. The sibling will most likely blame the other siblings that the blame is shifted from himself or herself (Shaver, 2009).Various theories have been developed to help understand attributions. Naïve psychology theory states that people analyse, observe and explain actions or behaviors with explanations. Although people have different explanations to events, their explanations are categorized into two; internal or personal and external or situational attributions (Kowner, 2008).

Internal attribution is always made whenever the cause of an event or behavior is assigned to a person’s characteristics as ability, mood, effort, attitudes, personality or dispositions. On the other hand, situational attribution is made when a cause of a particular action or event is assigned to the situation in which the action or event was seen such as other people, task or luck. The two types cause different perceptions of men and women engaging in a particular behavior or event.

Correspondent inference theory argues that men and women make inferences about other people when their actions are chosen freely, result in a small number of effects that are desirable and are unexpected. They make inferences by considering the context in which a particular behavior took place. This theory illustrates how men and women figure out personal characteristics of a person from behavioral evidence. They make conclusions based on expectedness of behavior, effect on one’s behavior and on the degree of choice (Kowner, 2008). Covariance model is a theory that argues that people assign behaviors to factors that are present whenever a set behavior occurs. This means that people explanations in a logical, fashion, rational and they attribute the causes of behavior or event to factor that covaries closely with that event or behavior. This theory explores three types of information that make an attribution action of a person’s behavior (Shaver, 2009).

The first information is census or the information on how others in the same situation and under the same stimulus behave. The second one is distinctive information or how people react to different stimuli. The third one is consistency information. It refers to the frequency of one behavior as observed under similar stimuli but in varied conditions. Three dimension model proposes that individuals have initial affective responses to several potential consequences of extrinsic and intrinsic motives. These motives in turn influences how one behaves in the future. According to the three dimension model one’s perception leads to a positive outcome and very high expectancy of future victory such as perceptions result to a greater willingness to follow the same activities in the future. The willingness is higher than perceptions that result to negative outcomes and low expectancy of future successes. This cognitive and effective assessment affects future actions when people are confronted with similar circumstances (Stebbins,2010).

I started the research with the understanding that men and women are motivated need to understand casual structures of their environment, to understand why a particular event took place and to the source such an event can be ascribed. I discovered it is important to evaluate several differences between men and women.

I reviewed relevant literature to support my research. in a research study by Weiner, he argued that people interpret environment in a way that they maintain positive self image. He further argued that people attribute their success and failures to factors that enable them to feel good about themselves.

I also reviewed an article by Westman. Westman(2011) argues that the casual attribution deals with how individuals understand causes of their failures and successes. He argues that attributions can be viewed from three dimensions: stable or unstable, controllable or uncontrollable and internal or external. Individuals who attribute their successes to stable, internal and controllable factors are said to be highly motivated and continue to succeed than people who attribute their failure to unstable, uncontrollable and external factors. His research indicates that men and women attribute their behaviors or actions to different sources.In this research, different methods of collecting information and data were used. Primary sources used were interviews and conversations while secondary sources used includes journals.

Research shows that there are differences between men and women attributions in technical classrooms. Attributions that students make in schools explain how their failures and successes are being affected by future expectations, decisions and results. This can be used to explain the causes of underrepresentation of girls in the field of engineering and computer science. The study revealed that there is no big difference between boy’s and, and girl’s on how they assess their accomplishments, in their perceptions and attributions for success or failure. However, girls behaved differently than boys. This was evident from the fact that boys asked more questions related to the field of study while girls asked questions of teachers and made few statements of self assurance.

Research revealed that girls earned 30% of bachelor’s degree in computer science and 22% of bachelors degree in Engineering. This shows that girls are underrepresented in technological fields. The explanation for this under representation in sciences, mathematics and technology careers, are interaction of factors. These factors link achievements, efforts and enrollment decisions to girls’ expectations for success. Their expectation of success is influenced by their past successes, self perceptions on abilities and attribution of job value and difficulties (Shaver, 2009).

Research reveals that females are socialized in a way that they have low self esteem and motivation in “male’ fields. This was explored by evaluating reasons that girls give for their failures and successes. It was found that students attribute failures and successes to four makes: effort, task difficulty, experience and luck. The four causes can then be sentenced as being internal or external to a person. Research showed that girls have a higher external locus of control than boys. This makes them less motivated. On the other hand, males view their energy and internal abilities as the reasons for their successes and failures (Medcof, 2008).Research distinguished four types of attributions. Girls have an external bias in their failures hence end up blaming themselves. They also have an external bias to success such that they do not take credit for their success. Males were seen to behave differently. They have an external bias to failure and an internal bias to success. Closer examination of externalities and internalities indicate that there is no complete design for girls and boys in success and failure.

Girls are reported to have greater attribution of success to luck and attribute failure to task difficulty while men attribute their success to use of skill and bad luck to failure. These resultss do not rule out the possibility that controllability and stability could be the determining factors rather than externality and internality. Stability refers to what matters. Attributing the success to stable factors of low ability or task difficulty causes one to have a helpless attitude. Research revealed that the motivation is promoted by attributing success to high ability. It was found that males tend to take mastery oriented approach (Shaver, 2009).

The interview was carried out to determine the attribution pattern in boys and girls. In an interview, boys and girls attributed uniformly their remembered success in reading or mathematics test to the ability. They all had a hard time answering questions about failure because it was difficult for students to imagine that failure was taking place. Chi-square test was used to compare the occurrences of observed verbal behaviors in boys and girls. The test was categorized into two; questions about peers and teachers. The second category is comments such as assured or unsure, success or failure and independent or dependent. The question asked sought to explore the differences in behavior between boys and girls. A significant number of questions were asked of peers and teachers (Chi-square= 15.85, p=.00, df=10). Both sexes addressed same number of questions to peers. However, girls asked more questions than that expected of teachers. Girls did not seem to have more problem than boys in task. Teacher proximity was also examined as a possible reason for girls asking more questions. Teacher questions were classified in terms of proximity of teachers when questions were asked. the three classifications include assisting teachers working in the group, close teachers and far teachers. The chi-test was significant (Medcof, 2008).test Chi-square p-value Degree of freedom.

Questions addressed to peers and teachers

15.568 0.000* 1

Questions to teachers about

teacher proximity


0.000** 2

Assured or Unsure Comments 4.834 0.208 1

Success/Failure Comments

2.303 0.105 1

* p < 0.05

** p < 0.001It was seen that girls tackled more questions of teachers during the teachers during the teacher interaction with the group. Girls were also likely than expected to ask for teachers’ help even if it meant getting up and find a teacher. On the contrary, boys did not go to search for a teacher. It was also observed that girls asked more questions when teachers were close. The assured and unsure comments showed a statistically significant difference between male and female.

Research found out that men and women can make mentally, motivating and realistic attributions. There are several factors that affect attribution. These factors include masculinity of the job, age of the participant, contrived versus authentic task, operational definition of failures and successes, operational definition of factors included, the relationship of attribution to expectations and beliefs. Differences between a man and a woman are strong when the job is considered to be performed better by men than women (Medcof, 2008).

The field work was carried out to support the discussion of internal and external attributions.The field work was carried out with 20 participants (10 males and 10 females), and it aimed to find differences in attributional patterns between males and females. They were asked to read this paragraph:«One day John noticed that a neighbou, Bill, was planting some flowers in the garden. John had plenty of free time, so he helped Bill plant the flowers. Several weeks later, Bill, the man whom John had helped previously, noticed that John was painting a fence in his yard. Bill had plenty of free time, so he offered to help John paint his fence.»Afterwards, they were asked to say why they believed Bill helped John to see whether they would give reasons that suggest an internal attribution, for example, «Because he likes to help» or an external attribution, for example«Because he owes him a favour.»The results were the following:

Males: 6 gave reasons that suggested external attributions and 4 provided reasons that suggested internal ones. Females: 3 gave reasons that suggested external attributions and 7 provided reasons that suggested internal ones.

Differences between men and women in internal attribution to effort and ability determines how one views his or her self worth. It was found that society placed high ability as a reason for this failure and men uses high ability as a reason for their successes. As people grow older, there is a direct relationship between ability and effort. Students can protect their self worth by preventing assessing their ability negatively such as attributing their failures to low effort (Stebbins, 2010).

A survey of students in 4th and 6th grade before and immediately after taking a math or spelling exam found that there is sex differences in the way they attribute performance. Performance was different in the two genders because task was classified as either feminine or masculine. It was found out that men made stronger attributions to internal causes of success and external causes for failures in masculinity typed tasks. Similarly, women made stronger attributions for successes and more external attribution for failures in feminine typed tasks (Mcelroy, 2013).

A research of the impact of age of participants on attribution showed that there is strong colleration . younger children are reported to attribute their effort to success than older children. As a child grows order, low achievers begin to determine their low ability and attribute it for failures. They start being less optimistic about their potential of efforts to success or to make them be smart. In attribution research, success is frequently operationally referred to as a minimum score. Success may also be defined by one’s self assessment (Mcelroy, 2013).

Disturbing findings found out that girls view a certain level of score or accomplishment less favorable than boys with similar accomplishments. This research revealed that its individual’s perception about success that is important other than the objective grade. Attribution is found to have a relationship with beliefs, achievement behaviors and expectations. Meece(1982) established that if there is no linkage between students attribution to their beliefs and expectations, then there is no need of explaining sex differences in terms of persistence, performance and achievement behaviors of choice. Self derogatory attributions in girls result in low expectations for success in the future. Males have high confidence in their abilities which make them have high expectations of succeeding in the future. Females take less pride in their success because they attribute their success to unstable factors. Past failures and successes and attribution to such events leads to emotions of happiness, guilt or shame.

Unlike men, women may blame themselves when they are victimized sexually. Stereotypes and beliefs in various cultures blame females for sexual victimization. Supporting attitudes for sexual coercion include: female say, “no” when they mean “yes,” females who go to male houses means they are consenting to sex. Some cultures believe it is not bad to force a woman to have sex so long as they had engaged in a sexual relationship before, and that male cannot control their urge when aroused.

Women are also blamed for sexual coercion for dressing provocatively. Women are encouraged in these cultures to “look at themselves” whenever they are victimized. Hence a woman attributes sexual coercion to herself. Self blame has been known to lead to depression symptoms, low self-esteem and trauma. Self blame and guilt refers to feelings that are unpleasant that accompany beliefs that one ought to have thought and acted differently with implications of insufficient justification and wrong doing.

Self blame and guilt consist of distress, guilt feelings and internal attributions commonly referred to as a cognitive component. Research revealed further that women in abusive relationships blame themselves and have low self esteem. They make stronger internal attributions in sexual coercions than men. They also experience stronger guilt feelings than men (Stebbins, 2010).


              It is clear that the socialization of females plays a important role in attribution. Girls are less likely than boys to take advantage of chances to get involved in “male” career like engineering and computer science. Girls who are considered successful in these courses and often attribute their success to performance exhibit a behavior that would be regarded as self depreciating. Such behaviors are learnt and internalized before an actual experience and before making attributions that are self depreciating. Teachers should provide positive technology experience for girls and also address cultural messages. They should also be aware of learning styles of girls and accommodate it.

Attribution can be used to explain the difference between a man and a woman. From the research, attribution assumes that people are rational, systematic and logical thinkers. This is not true, and it has been criticized because it does not address social, historical and cultural factors that affect and shape attribution.


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"Attributional pattern amongst men and women" StudyScroll, Aug 8, 2015. Accessed Sep 27, 2022.

"Attributional pattern amongst men and women" StudyScroll, Aug 8, 2015.

"Attributional pattern amongst men and women" StudyScroll, 8-Aug-2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 27-Sep-2022]

StudyScroll. (2015). Attributional pattern amongst men and women. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 27-Sep-2022]

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