Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution? Attributions of Responsibility and Decisions to Help Drug Addicts

McKee, Kevin [Browse]
Senior thesis
103 pages


Fiske, Susan [Browse]
Sugarman, Susan [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
According to attribution theory, emotional and behavioral reactions toward stigmatized individuals are determined by judgments of responsibility (or attributions) for their problems. Drug addiction, which carries a debilitating social stigma, is a natural target for these judgments. Who is to blame for the development of addiction? Who is responsible for ensuring recovery? This experiment examines the effect of responsibility attributions on decisions to help individuals with addiction. It extends previous research by adopting Brickman and colleagues’ (1982) theory, which distinguished responsibility for problem cause from responsibility for problem solution. Participants read a vignette which manipulated cause and solution responsibility for a hypothetical acquaintance’s addiction and subsequently indicated their intentions to offer various types of help. Results validated multiple features of the Brickman typology. However, in contrast with Brickman and colleagues’ prediction that different combinations of cause and solution responsibility attributions would uniquely preference certain helping behaviors, types of help were found to associate with multiple attributional orientations. Nonetheless, the finding that attributions of responsibility predict decisions to help has substantial implications for ameliorating institutional and interpersonal discrimination against individuals with addiction.

Supplementary Information