, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 533-554
Date: 22 Aug 2012

Attributional bias instrument (ABI): validation of a measure to assess ability and effort explanations for math performance

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Abstract

The present work investigates the validation of a newly developed instrument, the attributional bias instrument, based on achievement attribution theories that distinguish between effort and ability explanations of behavior. The instrument further incorporates the distinction between explanations for success versus failure in academic performance. An important characteristic of the instrument is that it can be used to assess biased attributions. For instance, attributional gender bias is the tendency to generate different attributions (explanations) for female versus male students’ performance in math. Whereas boys’ successes in math are attributed to ability, girls’ successes are attributed to effort; conversely, boys’ failures in math are attributed to a lack of effort and girls’ failures to a lack of ability. Previous research has shown this bias to be committed by teachers, parents, and students themselves. In the present study, high school students in Mexico were administered the instrument and asked to generate attributions for their successes and failures in math. Findings revealed: (1) a factor analysis confirmed the proposed structure of the instrument, (2) boys and girls committed the attributional gender bias, replicating effects in U.S. samples, and (3) additional analyses involving related measures further supported valid use of the instrument.