Bernard Weiner (born 1935) is an American social psychologist known for developing a form of attribution theory which explains the emotional and motivational entailments of academic success and failure. Bernard Weiner got interested in the field of ...
Bernard Weiner (born 1935) is an American social psychologist known for developing a form of attribution theory which explains the emotional and motivational entailments of academic success and failure. Bernard Weiner got interested in the field of attribution after the first studying achievement motivation. He used TAT to identify differences in people’s achievement needs and then turned to the study of individual issues people face when they think of their own successes and failures. One of his students, Linda Beckman, came up with this topic, and from then on, Bernard Weiner carried on further investigation which led him to a road of the cognitive processes that have motivational influence. Being a three-stage process, attribution theory explains the causes of an event or behavior. The three stages include observations and determination of behavior, and attributing to causes. There are two types of attributions; external and internal. External attribution relates causality to outside agents, whereas, internal attribution assigns the person himself for any behavior. In one of his interviews in 1996, Bernard Weiner was asked the following: "How does attribution contribute to high ability, high achievement, and giftedness?" His answer is the proceeding paragraph.
There are two perspectives to consider: self-perception and the perception of others. Certain attributions are maladaptive in that they are likely to reduce achievement strivings. Among these are attributions of failure to lack of ability, which produce low expectancies of future success (tied to the stability dimension of causality), low self-esteem (linked with the locus dimension), and humiliation and shame (because these are perceived as uncontrollable). On the other hand, failure ascribed to insufficient effort results in maintenance of expectancy of success and guilt, both motivators. Continuing commerce with the task increases specific ability (which is unstable, as opposed to underlying "intelligence" which is perceived as stable). Thus, by influencing task persistence, attributions also influence actual task ability. The same is true from the perspective of others. If I ascribe your failure to low ability, then I (as teacher) offer sympathy, do not punish for failure, and give unsolicited help. All these are cues that you "cannot," which starts the cycle indicated above. So other-perception and self-perception form a unity, together, which influence task persistence and, therefore, actual ability. Some of this is captured in the false-expectancy literature.
Professor of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles
Guggenheim Fellow, 1970-1
Consulting Editor, Journal of Research in Personality, 1973-8, Journal of Educational Psychology, 1975- , Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1978-9
1971 Perceiving the causes of success and failure. In E. E. Jones, D. Kanouse, H. H. Kelley, S. Valins and B. Weiner (eds), Attribution: Perceiving the Causes of Behavior. General Leaming Press (with I. Frieze, A. Kukla, L. Reed, S. Rest and R. M. Rosenbaum). (reprinted, 1972).
1972 Theories of Motivation. Rand-McNally.
1974 (ed.) Achievement Motivation and Attribution Theory. General Leaming Press.
1974 (ed.) Cognitive Views of Human Motivation. Academic Press.
1974 Achievement motivation as conceptualized by an attribution theorist. In B. Weiner (ed.), Achievement Motivation and Attribution Theory. General Leaming Press.
1979 A theory of motivation for some classroom experiences. Journal of Educational Psychology, 71, 3-25.
1980 A cognitive (attribution)-emotion-action model of motivated behavior: An analysis of judgements and help-giving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 186-200.
1980 Human Motivation. Holt.
1982 Personality. Heath (with S. Feshbach).
1982 The emotional consequences of causal ascriptions. In M. S. Clark and S. T. Fiske (eds), 17th Annual Carnegie Symposium on Cognition: Affect and Cognition. Erlbaum.
1986 An Attributional Theory of Motivation and Emotion. Springer-Verlag.
1992 Human Motivation: Metaphors, Theories and Emotion. Springer-Verlag.
1995 Judgments of Responsibility: A Foundation for a Theory of Social Conduct. Guilford Press.