MA Community Psychology Theses


Effects of Dialectical Thinking on Social Explanation

Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Community Psychology, MA



First Advisor

Bryant Carlson


Social explanation plays a large part in the inferences that people make about other’s life positions and actions. The fundamental attribution error is an example of a commonly known social explanatory style, which is a product of the inability of individuals to accurately perceive the causalities of other’s actions. More specifically, individuals who commit the fundamental attribution error often overestimate dispositional causes of behavior, while underestimating circumstantial causes. The tendency within U.S. culture to commit the fundamental attribution error can be harmful to disadvantaged communities by leading to the development of distorted perceptions about the social positions and actions of the individuals of these communities. The hypothesis of this study was that higher levels of dialecticism in individuals could significantly decrease the existence of dispositionism in social explanation, limiting the susceptibility of individuals to commit the fundamental attribution error. The hypothesis in this study was supported by analyzing the responses of 125 participants on measures of self-perception of dialectical thinking and social explanatory styles. Correlations between self-perceptions of dialectical thinking and dispositionism showed that when dialecticism increased dispositionism decreased. These findings support the thesis that dialectical thinking has the potential to decrease the tendency of individuals to commit the fundamental attribution error through the moderation of dispositional ascription in social explanation.

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