Furthermore Kelley’s theory did not include any evidence of Actor Observer Differences, which are a tendency for actors to attribute their behaviour to the situation and for observers to attribute the observed behaviours to the individual. An example of this is seen in Jones and Nisbett’s (1972) study where they found that male students were more likely to describe their own choice of girlfriend and course at university in terms of external factors, however on describing their best friends choices these were attributed to dispositional factors.
In another study it was discovered that people were more likely to say their behaviour depends on the situation than other peoples behaviours Therefore, attributions can not solely be made in the way that Kelley described, as distinctiveness information is considered differently and different attributions would be assumed. This and other evidence suggests that there is a different focus of attention for actors and observers, and actors know how their own behaviour varies across contexts. Kelley’s model is also flawed in that it does not take into account any differences in perceptual focus.
Any given event is usually a completely different experience for the actor and observer. It has further been suggested that the ANOVA model fails to incorporate or acknowledge the existence of the false consensus effect. This is where we have a tendency to use our own attitudes and behaviours for deciding the consensus for a specific behaviour and furthermore to overestimate the number of people who share our beliefs and habits. The evidence available suggests that people do not, as Kelley suggested, search for consensus information, we assume all people share our own individual beliefs.
Ross et al (1977) gave empirical support to this argument in their finding that when respondents were interviewed they believed over 60 percent of people, would give the same response as them. False attributions are clearly evident, one only has to think about when people who achieve high grades tell others about them and a distinct tendency to underestimate others success is apparent. The existence of the false consensus effect clearly shows that Kelley was incorrect to assume that consensus information played such a distinct role in making attributions.
Kelley’s ANOVA model is further undermined by the existence of a self-serving bias, which is a tendency to attribute success to internal causes and failure to external causes. For example Williams et al (1979) found that success in exams was attributed to ‘intelligence and work ethic but failure was attributed to unreasonable lecturers and bad luck’, thus participants in this experiment clearly did not use Kelley’s modal of attribution, as their attributions were varied dependant on whether it made them look good or not. The ANOVA model does not take into account the existence of any self-centred bias either.
Kelley’s model did not highlight the existence of unrealistic optimism on the part of an individual. This refers to the belief that ‘I am at least slightly better than average’ and that good things will happen to oneself and bad things will not. For example Manstead et al (1992) found that even car drivers who had been hospitalised after an accident believed that they were ‘better than average’ drivers. Overall there is a mass of evidence for the presence of self serving biases, thus, when making attributions there is a strong motivational basis to protect or enhance ones self esteem; which Kelly did not integrate into his model.
The literature in general does not seem to support the use of the ANOVA model in everyday situations; although elements may be used they are not descriptions of actual processes that people normally go through. When making attributions, ‘our explanations are not affected by the information we have available, they are also influenced by the culture we live in, what seems to be most salient to us at the time, and by our need for self-esteem,’ (Scott and Spencer, 1998).
The ANOVA model does not take into account the fact that we rely more on biased background information than details of the event and factors specified by the theory. The main criticism of the model is that it is overly rational and deliberative, and that it ignores the importance of culture and self-esteem, as previously explained (Hewstone, 1989 cited in Scott and Spencer, 1998). There is also evidence to suggest that we are not able to handle such complex statistical procedures as suggested by the model, as we lack cognitive resources; consequently, we often rely on cognitive heuristics instead.
Kelley’s model is ultimately flawed, although it is possibly a good account of how people should use information, it is not through enough to explain what happens in everyday life. However it deserves credit for being one of the most through and useful models devised at the time. It has also stimulated further research into the topic and models devised later by other psychologists have helped to make the theory more workable. For example, Forsterling’s (1992) formulation of Kelley’s ANOVA model was based on the statistical anova parameter of effect size, and thus accounted for discounting augmentation as well as covariation.
The results from our laboratory class and other pieces of research that have been in support of the ANOVA model cannot be ignored. However, with so much evidence to suggest that the MODEL is not an effective working model, one has to question whether supportive research evidence may have been flawed. As even with the introduction of Kelley’s causal schemas the theory is still unworkable. Overall the theory seems to complex and rigid to be part of everyday attributions, however in an ideal world it may be helpful to use Kelley’s ANOVA model to make unbiased, correct and thought through assumptions.