Sunday, June 24, 2007


Welcome to the Social Psych Lyrics blog! Through an experience in my Spring 2007 graduate course on Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), I learned that a fun way to engage students and help them remember terminology is through music. Hence, our staging of SEM The Musical, where some students and I wrote SEM-relevant lyrics to established tunes and performed them on the last day of class.

Once I got rolling on writing lyrics, I haven't been able to stop. Therefore, I've directed my energies to another discipline, namely social psychology, in which I received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1989. My faculty appointment is in Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University, where I've been since 1997.

Every two weeks or so, I plan to post a new social-psychological song (just the lyrics are really new) on this blog, along with an explanation of the concepts involved and some examples (in the same spirit as how Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire," which features a number of historical references, has been adapted into classroom lessons, such as this one). I've already written lyrics for about 10 social psychology songs, so I have some in reserve for the next few months.

Who knows? Maybe some of these songs can be performed at a future SPSP conference jam session.

A feature that I hope many of you will partake in is the Comments section, below each entry. If you show a given song to your social psych class (or better yet, perform it with them), please use the Comments section to let everyone know how it went. Or what points came up during your class discussion. Guest contributions of songs are also welcome.

For today's inaugural posting, I thought we'd go with a social psychology classic, the late Hal Kelley's "ANOVA cube" model of attribution (also known as his Covariation model). It goes something like this...


The Attribution
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “The Locomotion,” Goffin/King)

How do you explain the cause of someone’s behavior?
The Kelley, cube of attribution,
Internal or external, which do you favor?
The Kelley, cube of attribution,

You must examine factors now, of which there are three,
Consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency,
So look at, the cube, of attribution with me,

You’ve got to ask yourself, now,
How do, others act, in the same situation?
So much for this demonstration…

You also have to view the actor in other settings,
The Kelley, cube of attribution,
Is there variation in the response you’re getting,
The Kelley, cube of attribution,

You’re doing attribution like an ANOVA cube,
Hopefully this song’s gotten your interest renewed,
So look at, the cube, of attribution with me...



This web document provides a nice overview of Kelley's model. Briefly, the observer is said to consider three factors when determining the attribution to make for an actor's behavior: consensus (how other people respond to the same situation), distinctiveness (how the actor responds to other similar situations), and consistency (does the same actor, in the same context, respond similarly on repeated occasions).


Tiger Woods shut an uncharacteristic +6 over par at the recent U.S. Open golf tournament (i.e., taking six more shots than expected, to finish all the holes), although he still finished tied for second. One could attribute Woods's poor score (for him) to internal factors (e.g., his putting was rusty) or external factors (e.g., the course was unduly difficult).

As the linked background/explanation document states, high consistency is required for either an internal or external attribution, as low consistency suggests ephemeral dynamics. If we look at Woods's performance on each of the tournament's four days, we see that he shot over par on three of the four days, so there was indeed some consistency.

Was there high consensus? Absolutely, as the best anyone did was a +5 for the tournament (by winner Angel Cabrera).

Finally, was Woods's U.S. Open performance highly distinctive? Looking at his 2007 record, we see that +6 was clearly his worst performance of the year (purely relative to par), and that he often shoots well below par (i.e., making the holes in fewer shots than expected). So, yes, he exhibited considerable distinctiveness at the U.S. Open.

Again referring to the above-linked background document, a high-high-high profile should lead an observer to make an external or situational attribution (i.e., the course was really hard).

Further Reading

Kelley, H.H. (1967). Attribution theory in social psychology. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 15, 192-238.

McArthur, L.A. (1972). The how and what of why: Some determinants and consequences of causal attribution. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22, 171-193.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! I hope you'll do many many more. This will be a fun way to help students learn concepts in class.

Keep 'em coming!