In psychology, an attribution bias or attributional bias is a cognitive bias that refers to the systematic errors made when people evaluate and/or try to find reasons for their own and others’ behaviors. People constantly make attributions regarding the cause of their own and others’ behaviors; however, attributions do not always accurately mirror reality. Rather than operating as objective perceivers, people are prone to perceptual errors that lead to biased interpretations of their social world.
Attribution biases are present in everyday life, and therefore are an important and relevant topic to study. For example, when a driver cuts us off, we are more likely to attribute blame to the reckless driver (e.g., “What a jerk!”), rather than situational circumstances (e.g., “Maybe they were in a rush and didn’t notice me”). Additionally, there are many different types of attribution biases, such as the fundamental attribution error, actor-observer bias, and hostile attribution bias. Each of these biases describes a specific tendency that people exhibit when reasoning about the cause of different behaviors.