Fritz Heider

Fritz Heider (1896-1988) was an Austrian psychologist most recognized as developing many of the core tenets of attribution theory. Heider proposed that there are two kinds of attributions: internal and external attributions. An internal attribution is determining that the causal factors of actions or behaviors to be the result of internal forces and traits. It is attributing actions and behaviors of a person to their personality or disposition. External attributions are when actions or behaviors are believed to be caused by situational or environmental factors. Heider first noted (but did not coin the name) the Fundamental Attribution Error which is the tendency for individuals to use external attributions for their negative behaviors ("I was speeding because the speed limit is too low and traffic was bad") and internal attributions for other people's negative behaviors ("That person speeding is reckless, dangerous, and shouldn't be behind the wheel"). Heider is also credited with developing balance theory which is a theory of attitude change that suggests that individuals use cognitive consistency (the desire to sustain personal values and beliefs) in order to seek out psychological balance.

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