Why? Attributions About and by Entrepreneurs

  • Kelly G. Shaver
Part of the International Studies in Entrepreneurship book series (ISEN, volume 24)


To help explain events and behavior, people search for causes. In some cases the identified causes are found within persons, in other cases they are found in the environment, in still other cases they are found in the interaction between person and environment. When provided with multiple opportunities for observation, people typically follow a principle of covariation. With only one chance for observation, people rely on causal schemata. Although attributional inferences are often correct, there are two primary classes of attributional error. First, there is a natural difference in perspective between actors and observers. Actors are “looking outward,” concentrating on factors in the environment, but observers are concentrating only on the actor. This perspective difference leads observers to over-attribute events to persons, paying too little attention to situational factors, a cognitive mistake known as the fundamental attribution error. Second, there are errors created by the observer’s motivation. Three examples are the self-serving bias, the need to believe in a just world, and defensive attribution. These errors and objective attribution processes are described and illustrated by examples from entrepreneurship.


Task Difficulty Nascent Entrepreneur Dispositional Property Entrepreneurial Behavior Attribution Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly G. Shaver
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Business and EconomicsCollege of CharlestonCharlestonUSA

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