The Effects of Stress and Desire for Control on the Formation of Causal Attributions

Giora Keinan, Dalia Sivan

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Research shows that stressed individuals exhibit a higher tendency to form causal attributions. One of the common explanations for this finding is that stress reduces persons' sense of control and that in order to regain control, they engage in causal search. The present study tested the validity of this explanation. To this end, we examined the effects of stress on the formation of causal relations in persons with high and low desire for control (DC). Sixty participants were administered the Desirability of Control Scale and filled out a questionnaire assessing their tendency to form causal relations under low- and high-stress conditions. It was found that the difference in the formation of causal relations between high-DC individuals and low-DC individuals was greater in the high-stress than in the low-stress condition. Our findings also suggest that under stress, causal search serves as a generalized coping response. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings were discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-137
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2001


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