Attribution and Emotion

Attribution often influences our emotional reactions. Bernard Weiner (1982) pointed out that anger is caused not simply by "something bad", but specifically by something bad which is under someone else's control. Thus anger requires an attribution. If you believe another person has control of a situation, but still is doing the wrong thing, this can make you very angry.

How is attribution involved in anger? How do cultural patterns of attribution keep the Yanomami at war?

Attributions are a life and death issue among the Yanomami, a warrior tribe of the Amazon. If a baby grows sick and dies, a Yanomamo shaman (medicine man) might decide this was caused by an evil spell cast by a shaman in a nearby tribe. This attribution results in a war party being formed and a raid conducted on the nearby tribe. Raids result in killings, which lead to revenge killings. As a result, the Yanomami are continuously at war.


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