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Actor-Observer Asymmetries in Explanations of Behavior: New Answers to an Old Question

Bertram Malle, Joshua Knobe & Sarah Nelson

Forthcoming in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Summary: A long series of studies in social psychology have shown that the explanations people give for their own behaviors are fundamentally different from the explanations they give for the behaviors of others. Still, a great deal of uncertainty remains about precisely what sorts of differences one finds here. We offer a new approach to addressing the problem. Specifically, we distinguish between two levels of representation ─ the level of linguistic structure (which consists of the actual series of words used in the explanation) and the level of conceptual structure (which consists of the concepts these words are used to express). We then formulate and test hypotheses both about self-other differences in conceptual structure and about self-other differences in the mapping from conceptual structure to linguistic structure.

To request a copy of this paper, write to me at ‘knobe at email dot unc dot edu.’




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