Attribution Theory and Intercultural CommunicationIntroduction
The purpose of this paper is to examine attribution theory in application tointercultural communication and its particular importance with regard to interculturalunderstanding and avoidance of conflict. This analysis will have three main goals: first, toexamine how negative attribution can adversely affect relations, second, to show howpositive empathic attribution can engender positive pro-social relations between people of varying cultures, and finally, to caution against collective ethnocentric blindness to (thecapacity for) error in
the negative or positive direction. The paper will addressthese goals under section headings, “the fractional,” “the tactical,” and “the practical,”respectively.
To be clear about what is meant by attribution theory, simply put, “Attributionsare our attempts to explain strangers’ behavior” (Gudykunst, 1998). Specifically,attribution is a kind of shorthand mechanism by which the human mind categorizes or assigns reasons for outcomes. Attribution theory is primarily applied to the study of individuals and interpersonal communication, but it can likewise be useful in applicationto ingroup/outgroup relations. Whether individually or collectively, people still tend toattribute outcomes, good or bad, based on their expectations of others.Attribution theory is a kind of offshoot of the study of stereotyping or
.While stereotyping or othering attempt to explain who others
, attribution, usuallywith the same reasoning antecedents, seeks to explain the underlying causes behind what