Defensive Attribution Hypothesis

The defensive attribution hypothesis is a social psychology term that describes an attributional approach taken by some people - a set of beliefs that an individual uses to protect or "shield" themselves against fears of being the victim or cause of a major mishap.

Sometimes when confronted with information that threatens our perceptions of safety defensive attributions are sometimes made in order to ease the psychological discomfort that occurs when we are afraid something will happen. Similarities with the victim influence defensive attributions - by assigning attributions to others we make their situations seem controllable and therefore unlikely to happen to us.

For instance, if you hear about a person getting mugged in your neighborhood this may make you feel initially afraid for you safety because you walk the same streets as the victim. If you used defensive attributions in this circumstance you might start thinking things such as: "Well, that person was walking by themselves, I never do that" or "That person was crazy to walk at night, I'm not that dumb." Even though you may do these same things by assigning attributional responsibility to the victim you are decreasing the negative feelings you are experiencing by thinking you might end up being a victim too. They are responsible for what happened to them due to their actions, therefore you are unlikely to experience the negative thing the victim experienced.

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