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Dave Shearon

Seligman had some material on whether certain cultures were more optimistic (tended to a more positive attributional style) than others. Interesting stuff.

Chris C.

Well, I don't know who's doing research on this area these days. There's a lot of stuff out there on "self-serving bias" in atribution theory, and group-serving bias is just an extension of that work. This was a hot topic in psychology in the 70's and 80's, but not so much any more.

Recently, there's been work by Markus & Kitayama and others on how the self-serving bias may be a cultural phenomenom; the bias is more evident in so-called individualistic societies (like the U.S.).

Dave Shearon

Thanks for the note, Chris. That's cool. I had wanted to ask you about your first post. Seligman's work is focused on individuals, not groups, so I'm not familiar with the mention of "group-serving bias". Any pointers? I'm going to deal with your point about schools and optimsim in another post.


John Smoltz was nominated by the Braves for the 2004 Branch Rickey Award. He has a very impressive Service resume. Perhaps this is part of what you are thinking of when you say that Mr. Cox "attributes success to core qualities of the individuals involved," especially the qualities of optimism and a willingness to improve situations.

Chris C.

"From casual reading, it seems he attributes success to core qualities of the individuals involved and failure either to bad luck, external factors, or short term things that will correct themselves."

Attribution theorists in psychology call this the "group-serving bias"; most people prefer to attribute their own (or their group's) success to internal & stable factors while attributing failures to external & changeable factors. Obviously, people who experience failure won't respond as well to an internal & stable atirbution such as "You lack pitching ability", though this strategy is frequent in education (tracking, grading on achievement rather than progress, etc).

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