Defensive attribution hypothesis and serious occupational accidents

Psychol Rep. 1992 Jun;70(3 Pt 2):1195-9. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1992.70.3c.1195.


Based on the defensive attribution hypothesis, we assume that the victims of serious occupational accidents tend to attribute their accidents to external factors, while their coworkers and foremen tend to attribute the accidents to the victims' own action. The data to test this hypothesis consisted of 99 serious occupational accidents in southern Finland. In connection with the accident, or after the investigation at the accident site, 73 victims, 65 coworkers, and 71 foremen were interviewed. The results support our assumption, as the victims tended to use external attributions, whereas the foremen and coworkers attributed the accidents to internal factors. The defensive attribution hypothesis seems to explain the differences in how each party interpreted the basis for each accident.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / psychology*
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Defense Mechanisms*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*