Date of Original Version



Working Paper

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Abstract or Description

When explaining others’ behaviors, achievements, and failures, it is common for people to attribute too much influence to the individual’s disposition and too little influence to the structural and situational influences impinging on the actor. Although performance is a joint function of ability and situational facilitation or impediments, dispositional inference ascribes too much to individual ability. We hypothesize that this tendency leads university admissions decisions to favor students coming from institutions with lenient grading because they will have their high performance mistaken for evidence of high ability. In four studies using both laboratory experiments and actual admissions decisions, we show that those who display high performance simply due to lenient grading or to an easy task are favored in selection. These results have implications for research on attribution, because they provide a more stringent test of the correspondence bias, and allow for a more precise measure of its size. Implications for admissions and personnel selection decisions are also discussed.