Three studies explored the causal attributions of common somatic symptoms. The first two studies established the reliability and validity of a measure of attributional style, the Symptom Interpretation Questionnaire (SIQ). Three dimensions of causal attribution were confirmed: psychological, somatic and normalizing. The third study examined the antecedents and consequences of attributional style in a sample of family medicine patients. Medical and psychiatric history differentially influenced attributional style. Past history and attributional style independently influenced clinical presentations over the subsequent 6 months. Symptom attributional style may contribute to the somatization and psychologization of distress in primary care.