Attribute styles: tell me how you explain things and I’ll tell you how you feel

Do you know what we do from the first minute of birth? Learn. We really learn before we are even born. Did you know that language development is already in its infancy?

We are an inexhaustible information processing machine. We are continually processing what surrounds us. We need to understand in order to adapt and interact with our environment.

And we learn mainly by association and by consequences, our own or those of others. In other words, in this learning to tell us how this living thing works, we are constantly looking for the cause-effect pair. After Heider, people act like “naive scientists”. We have constantly “studied” everything around us to try to understand and explain it.

What is important? What is happening or should it happen? Why is this happening? Without realizing it, these are big questions that we are turning from this minute. And in this task, and each according to his “masters” and the intonation he has to live, draws his own conclusions and creates his own attributive style.

    What are the attributive styles?

    Since attribution refers to explaining the causes of something that is happening, be it internal or external causes, with an attributive style, we refer to the tendency that everyone has to explain what is happening, according to one cause or another.

    What kind of causes are generally attributed to? What we will discuss derives in large part from the theory of causal attribution of Bernard Weiner. In this sense, we organize the causes according to 3 factors or dimensions.

    1. Place of control: where is the cause?

    like that, the cause can be internal, i.e. it is due to something specific to the person, or it can be external.

    To say that “I succeeded because I have worked a lot and studied a lot” is to attribute the cause to something internal, to a quality, to the effort. On the other hand, if “I passed because the exam was very easy”, it means assigning the case to an external variable, in which case the exam was easy, which could also have been lucky, good or bad., In the conjunction of the stars …

    2. Temporality

    It’s the mailman refers to whether the causes are stable or unstable.

    If the cause is stable, it is assumed that this cause will always be present and therefore the same will always happen. Conversely, if the cause is considered unstable, it is assumed that what happened should not happen again.

    For example, “I’m sure I’ll take all the exams the same,” he tells us that what happened will happen again, that sets a stable scenario for what happened. Faced with the same fact, an unstable scenario can be set up, “this time I passed, but I will not be able for the next exam”.

    3. Situational element

    This factor refers to situations in which the cause is valid.

    In this way, a cause that has occurred can be global, so that it will be present in all situations, or therefore be specific, and therefore only refers to a particular situation.

    “I have studied what I study, I will not get it,” he says clearly that what has happened, what is happening will be global and it does not matter what is studied, where it is studied, the result will be the same. “Mathematics, I think it costs me particularly. With biology, it would cost me less. Well, to make biology more interesting, entertaining … the point is that the difficulties in studying focus on math

    Certainly, as we have read, a question has arisen: are the three factors not linked? The answer, how could it be otherwise, is that of course they are related. A person’s attributive styles are congruent in themselves. A different thing is that they are congruent when asked.

    How do attributive styles influence us?

    From Heider’s studies and attribution theory to the research of Martin Seligman which led to the theory of impotence to explain depression and its subsequent reformulations in 1975 (Abramson, Seligman and Teasdale), the theoretical builder of Attributions has acquired the relevance it deserves.

    More precisely, the perception of uncontrollability, or what is the same, the perception that what is done or not, has nothing to do with what is happening, has a significant weight in the cognitive structure present in mood disorders and depression.

    Rather, it is the explanation given to this perception of uncontrollability that explains the despair associated with mood disorders.

    Among many theories and authors, this research laid the groundwork for and emphasized the importance of attribution and attribution styles. Although they don’t explain everything, they have a lot to say about disorders like depression, anxiety …

    And you: what style do you have?

    Answering this question involves questioning the theory we have built to understand and explain why things happen. and how “we should” act.

    The attributive style that each one has learned will undoubtedly determine the decisions they make and the way they approach their daily life. To help us understand how we tend to attribute the causes of what is going on around us, it is important to incorporate a new variable and observe how we explain successes or failures.

    If we take this chart as a benchmark, what boxes would you tick when faced with the positive (one success) and negative (one failure) happening in your life?

    Although it has been primarily studied and associated with depression and mood disorders and anxiety disorders, knowing our attributive style is also a useful tool for knowing how to manage our daily life, and ultimately the management of life itself.

    Attributions and Mood: How Does It Relate?

    Before we continue, it’s important to note that not everything can be summarized or explained on the basis of attributive styles, people are much more complex and rich enough to be summed up in attributive style.

    However, the multitude of cases and our clinical experience underscore that depression is usually associated with a particular attribute style such as the following.

    Successes, positive facts, tend to be explained on the basis of external, specific and unstable causes. In other words, it is:

    • External causes: occurs because of something external to the person. Luckily he was a “good person”, the test was easy, they did him a favor, and so on.
    • Specific causes: that is, this situation specifically occurred, with this examination, with this person
    • Unstable causes: It is considered that the positive will not recur.

    On the contrary, the negative facts are attributed to:

    • Internal causes: The negative is explained by something internal, by a negative internal quality.
    • Global causes: what happened will happen to other people, in other situations …
    • Stable causes: now that it is due to something internal, it will always be so.

    Therefore, it is important that we pay attention to our attributive style. If you notice that you have to take responsibility for the negative but not the positive, and you consider that this will always and everywhere happen, it is likely that hopelessness will arise, and of course you are not a good life partner. .

    We usually don’t realize how much information we despise and how we distort the way we perceive what is happening to us. We tend to reproduce over and over again how we learned to interpret things. It is therefore important to know our explanatory assumptions, our attributive styles, and to learn to review and question them.

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