Thinking Structurally: How Structural Attributions Impact Support For Solutions and Willingness to Take Collective Action

Sophia Pink, PhD Candidate at the Wharton School, and Maurice Schweitzer, Operations, Information and Decisions, The Wharton School

Abstract: Though nearly everyone recognizes the importance of addressing issues like climate change, gender bias, and police brutality, we face bitter and debilitating conflict with respect to the causes of these challenges. In this project, we study the consequences of “structural attributions” for social problems — that is, believing a problem was caused by policies, infrastructure, and/or institutions. We study how these attributions influence support for solutions, importance of addressing the problem, and willingness to take collective actions. We study how structural attributions are motivating or demotivating might depend on characteristics of the individual (e.g. political ideology) and of the situation (e.g. intentionality of the problem). We aim to introduce a novel framework for understanding the faultlines of high stakes conflicts.