Insecure attachment linked to a psychological phenomenon known as negative attribution bias

People who are insecure about their attachments to others tend to have greater negative attribution bias, new research finds Bulletin of Personality and Social Psychology.

Negative attribution bias refers to the tendency to blame and attribute hostile motives to the behaviors of others. This can manifest itself in the attribution of a person’s behavior to their personal characteristics rather than to the situation in which they find themselves. For example, if a person doesn’t call us back, we can assume that they are rude or indifferent. However, the reality could be that they are busy or preoccupied with something else.

“Humans are amazing, we interpret other people’s behaviors and the causes of events in our own way,” explained study author Danyang Li from the University of Bristol. “Individual differences in attributions in social situations exist widely, with some people being more negative and even hostile, some people being more positive and benign. Interestingly, people close to us (parents/romantic partners) can have a significant influence on how we make allocations.

The new finding is based on attachment theory, which posits that parent-child interactions shape how individuals perceive and behave in personal relationships. People can be secure or insecure in their attachments, and insecurely attached people can be anxious or avoidant. People with attachment anxiety often fear rejection or abandonment. In contrast, those who avoid attachment tend to be stubbornly independent and find it difficult to trust others.

Li and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis, which is a statistical technique that combines the results of several scientific studies. The goal of a meta-analysis is to provide a more complete picture of the data than would be possible by considering each study individually.

For their meta-analysis, the researchers searched for previous studies that included both measures of attachment and measures of attribution bias. They excluded studies that included criminal participants or patients who were being treated at the time of testing. Their final analysis included data from 8,727 participants. The dataset included 32 samples from North America, 7 samples from Europe, and 2 samples from the Middle East.

The researchers found that higher levels of attachment anxiety were associated with greater negative attribution bias. Similarly, higher levels of attachment avoidance were also associated with greater negative attribution bias. This was true for women and men, and for children, adolescents and adults.

“Insecure attachment with parents/romantic partners is positively associated with more negative attributions. In other words, people with insecure relationships tend to negatively interpret the behaviors of others or the causes of events,” said Li at PsyPost.

“For child samples, the link between insecure attachment and negative attribution bias played an important role in peer aggression. For adult samples, the link between insecure attachment of adults and negative attribution bias was associated with lower relationship satisfaction.

The researchers also found that the link between insecure attachment and negative attribution bias was stronger in children and adults than in adolescents. This could be because adolescence represents the time when our primary attachments shift from our parents to our romantic partners.

The results provide strong evidence that insecure attachment is associated with negative attributions. But research cannot speak to the informal nature of this relationship. Researchers still have an important question to answer: Does increased attachment insecurity lead to greater negative attribution bias or does increased negative attribution bias lead to increased attachment insecurity? ?

“A fairly limited number of studies have investigated the relationship between attachment and negative attribution bias using longitudinal designs,” Li explained. negative attribution can change over time, and there is a need for us to better understand the mechanisms by which these changes occur.”

The study, “Insecure Attachment Orientation in Adults and Children and Negative Attribution Bias: A Meta-Analysis,” was authored by Danyang Li, Katherine B. Carnelley, and Angela C. Rowe.

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