Theory of Correspondent Inference

Theory of Correspondent Inference was developed by Jones and Davis (1965) It is concerned with how we decide based on others’ overt actions.

People often act in certain ways not because that is what they feel to do, but rather because external factors force them to act that way. For example, a customer acting rudely towards a salesperson in a store may be the exception, not the rule. In situations such as these, using others’ behavior as a guide to their lasting traits or motives can lead to a wrong judgment of their behavior.

According to Jones and Davis’s theory, we can learn more about others from actions on their part that yield non-common effects than from ones that do not. Non-common effects are effects that are caused by one specific factor but not by others. They allow us to zero in on the causes of other’s behavior. The theory suggests we focus on behavior that seems to have been chosen very freely, while largely ignoring ones that were somehow forced on the person in question. It also suggests that we pay careful attention to actions that show non-common effects, such as a rich man marrying a rich woman who is boring.

Jones and Davis: We learn more about others’ traits form the actions they perform that are somehow out of the ordinary than form actions that are very much like those of most other persons.

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