Primary objective: Experiments investigated whether attributions for a brain-injured person's behaviours were affected by markers of injury. People misattribute behaviours that result from brain injury to personality or life stages (e.g. adolescence), particularly when there are no visible markers of the injury.
Research design: Scenarios presented a photograph of an adolescent boy, who either wore or did not wear a head bandage. The boy was described as suffering a brain injury and showing four changes in his behaviour, relating to sleep, anger, self-confidence and motivation.
Methods and procedures: For each behaviour, students (n=100) rated attributions to the brain injury and adolescence.
Outcomes and results: When there was no bandage, participants attributed the behaviours to adolescence more than brain injury, whereas with the head bandage they invoked both causes equally.
Conclusions: When actions resulting from brain injury are attributed to causes other than the injury, this misattribution hinders accurate diagnosis and treatment. Data on effects of injury and individual levels of pre-morbid behaviours lead to accurate attributions.