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Attribution Bias

Written by

Tiffany Clark

Reviewed by

VidCruiter Editorial Team

Last Modified

Apr 17, 2024
Attribution Bias
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Attribution Bias


Attribution refers to the way people determine the cause of another individual’s behaviors, successes, and failures. There is a tendency to attribute the cause to a person’s personality or characteristics (internal) or circumstances or situations (external). 


When attribution bias is in place, assumptions are made about the role played by internal factors in behavior. Attribution bias is one of the cognitive biases, which means that it can impact thought processes, decision-making, and judgment. 


When reviewing applications or resumes, a hiring manager may read certain details about applicants and attribute their successes to personal characteristics without considering external circumstances. This can lead to the selector attempting to build tangible profiles of the individuals based on only a few factors. 


A resume or CV does not wholly indicate the potential or skills of a candidate, and making judgments based on the limited information provided can lead to missing key opportunities and ruling out a strong candidate. 


In recruiting and hiring, attribution bias can occur in either the application review or interview stages. 




For example, a hiring manager may attribute a person’s friendly disposition to their success rather than the fact that they had access to better schools or a unique skill set. The reality is that a combination of these factors likely played a role in a person’s success. Meanwhile, attribution bias can affect the future behaviors and actions exhibited by the person. Without all the details, it’s impossible to draw an accurate conclusion about an individual’s successes or failures. 


Related Terms

Attributional Bias

is a term used interchangeably with attribution bias.

Fundamental Attribution Bias

allows a more forgiving attitude toward one individual based on their external circumstances and environmental factors while attributing the behavior of another individual to internal characteristics without considering their external challenges.

Correspondence Bias

refers to attributing a person’s behavior to their internal characteristics even when dealing with heavily constrained situations.

Self-Serving Bias

is the tendency to ignore situational factors or good fortune that contribute to an individual’s success while placing the blame for failures on external circumstances. This allows the individual to be absolved of responsibility for situations that haven’t gone well.

Group-Serving Bias

is commonly called the ultimate attribution error. This bias refers to the tendency to credit a group’s internal attributions to their successes while blaming external attributions for their setbacks.

Hostile Attribution Bias

causes people to interpret ambiguous behavior as malignant or hostile rather than benign. In extreme circumstances, this can cause irrationality and insecurity.

Negative Impression Bias

refers to the tendency to emphasize negative information about another individual, thereby overemphasizing the information’s continued impact. Negative impression bias can also refer to over-emphasizing negative characteristics, actions, or traits because of things a person has done in the past.

False Consensus Bias

refers to the act of attributing one’s own reactions and thought processes to someone else. This can lead to judgment based on the recruiter’s motivations or intentions.

Confirmation Bias

refers to a person’s tendency to consciously or subconsciously seek information that confirms their opinions or views while disregarding input that challenges their perception.

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