He fell down because he is clumsy (internal attribution). I fell down because the furniture was haphazardly arranged (external attribution).
According to Fritz Heider’s attribution theory, people behave like social psychologists trying to explain the behavior they see around them. Attribution theory deals with how an individual gathers information, and then uses it to make a final judgment.
The two elements to attribution include:
- Internal attribution, when we assign the cause of behavior to an internal characteristic rather than an external characteristic.
Here we use internal, i.e., personality/ dispositional factors to explain others’ behavior. (e.g.. She is always late to the class. She is very tardy.)
- External attribution, when we assign causes of behavior to external factors outside our control.
Usually happens when we explain our behavior in terms of external or situational factors. (e.g. I was late to the class because of the chaotic traffic)
Hope this clarifies!