Make the Future – NT 4.2.4 Attribution Theory

Muslim woman smiling while using a computer

Photo courtesy of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Attribution theory focuses on how people attribute events and how those beliefs interact with self-perception. There is evidence that suggests that females and males attribute success and failure differently. Females generally attribute their successes to hard work or to sources outside themselves such as a good teacher, an easy test, etc. Conversely, they attribute their failures internally—they are just simply not smart enough for the class. Males, largely, attribute success and failure in the opposite manner!

“Boys do not pursue mathematical activities at a higher rate than girls do because they are better at math. They do so, at least partially, because they think they are better.”

-Shelley Correll, Professor, Stanford University

In order to combat the possibly negative impact of attribution theory, educators and employers must illustrate that an increase in effort results in an increase in success. Educate students about incremental learning, and that brain capacity is not fixed but can be expanded. For more information, see the work of Carol Dweck.