Attribution and Lateral Thinking Theories

Attribution and Lateral Thinking
A comparison of the Attribution and Lateral Thinking learning theories by Lisa H. IM504, July 2014

Attribution Theory
• Theory of learner motivation
• Four main perceived causes of achievement outcomes: ability, effort, task
difficulty, and luck
• Internal outcomes are ability and effort
• External outcomes are task difficulty and luck
• When interpreting the past, learners see the causes of prior events. Their
feelings about what happened will determine what actions they take in the
• Thinking gives rise to feelings which guide action
To summarize, Attribution theory is interested in how people explain success and failure when they judge their own behavior or the behavior of someone else. Their feelings will determine future actions.

Lateral Thinking Theory
• Promotes the idea that we can generate novel solutions to a problem
• Be able to suspend judgment
• It is important to cut across patterns
• The ability to shift thinking is an important attribute
• Movement within ideas is critical
To summarize, the Lateral Thinking Theory involves the idea that many problems require a different perspective to solve successfully.

Both of these theories have direct application to school settings and learners. The Attribution Theory dovetails into the Lateral Thinking Theory. The problem-solving components in Lateral Thinking can lead to a positive or negative self-concept in the learner. If a learner succeeds in problem-solving activities, they would feel happiness and pride. If they fail, they would feel sad and ashamed. Problem solving may be one of the experiences that are remembered as a negative or positive experience that will affect future decisions and outcomes.

The Lateral Thinking Theory has broad applications; business, health industry, military, education, the fine arts, entertainment industry, and many more. There are universal uses for the tenets that Edward de Bono promotes. This theory falls into the Cognitive Domain of Gagne’s taxonomy (Larson & Lockee, 2014, pp. 104-105). The Attribution Theory has a narrower focus with adult learning and English language learners. This theory falls into the Affective and Interpersonal Skills Domain of Gagne’s taxonomy (Larson & Lockee, 2014, pp. 104-105) Weiner himself states, “Attributions account for a surprising extent of emotional life” (Weiner, 2010, p. 34).

• Create color – Big arrows – Character faces next to the links or portals on
the SCSU website for anything related to Tk20.
• It is important to find those who are frustrated or feeling inadequate and
provide help beyond just electronic tutorials. Give opportunity for seminars,
“time with a tutor”, or other face-to-face options that allow for questions and
• Offer computer lab times for faculty and students – “A Day to Play” for
training on components of using Tk20 and for video editing in SoE. (For
faculty “A Day to Play” might also mean comp time for the additional time
and effort that they must invest in doing this work.)

Alder, H. (1994). The technology of creativity. Management Decision, 32 (4),
Bono, E. (1995). Serious Creativity. Journal for Quality & Participation, 18(5),
Larson, M.B., & Lockee, B.B. (2014) Streamlined ID: A Practical Guide to
Instructional Design. New York: Routledge.
Lattipongpun, W. (2010) Olympic Ceremony Design vs Lateral Thinking:
Spectacular Creativity. Design Principles and Practices: An International
Journal, 4 (4), 11-20.
Savolainen, R. (2013). Approaching the motivators for information seeking: The
viewpoint of attribution theories. Library & Information Science Research, 35
(1), 63-68.
Weiner, B. (2010). The Development of an Attribution-Based Theory of Motivation:
A History of Ideas. Educational Psychologist, 45 (1), 28-36.