Ubiquitous Watergate: An attributional analysis

Stephen G. West, Steven P. Gunn, Paul Chernicky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Investigated actor-observer differences in causal attribution in 2 studies with undergraduates. Study 1 was a field experiment in which 80 Ss (actors) were presented with elaborate plans for burglarizing a local advertising firm under 1 of 4 experimental conditions: (a) a control condition; (b) $2,000 (reward); (c) government sponsorship but no immunity from prosecution; and (d) government sponsorship plus immunity. In Study 2, 238 Ss (Os) read a description of a student agreeing or refusing to participate in the burglary under 1 of the 4 experimental conditions. Consistent with E. E. Jones and R. E. Nisbett's 1971 theory, actors made more environmental attributions, while Os made more dispositional attributions. Further, Os made more dispositional attributions when the actor agreed than when he refused, except in the reward condition, where this relationship was reversed. Results are interpreted with reference to the disparate explanations of Watergate offered by the Nixon administration and the press. (58 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-65
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1975
Externally publishedYes


  • reward vs government sponsorship with vs without immunity from prosecution for burglary, environmental vs dispositional attributions of participation, actor vs observer college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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