Attribution of responsibility for a bad accident

Conflicting findings have raised the problem of whether or not attribution of responsibility increases as the severity of consequences increases. In the present experiment the degree and direction of assignment of responsibility to a male or a female stimulus person (SP) were studied as a function of magnitude of consequences {mild or severe} in a bad accident. Ninety male Ss and ninety female Ss were assigned to the four treatment cells. Each S read a case history in which the SP was involved in a mishap. Results on a twelve item questionnaire measuring attribution of responsibility and other perceptions of the SP did not support Lerner's (1965) and Walster’s (1966) hypotheses that the assignment of responsibility increases as the magnitude of consequences increases. The trend was toward an inverse relationship, i.e., as the magnitude of consequences decreases, assignment of responsibility increases. The hypothesis that male Ss would attribute more responsibility than would female Ss was confirmed. There was a trend for male Ss to make more allowances for the female stimulus person in the severe case but not in the mild case. The results on the questionnaire corresponded with the results on the Internal-External Control scale which showed that female Ss attributed more control to chance and fate than male Ss did. Lerner's (1965) and Walster’s (1966) theories apparently cannot provide satisfactory explanations of the processes which underlie attribution of responsibility.