Accidents and Attributions: Differential Consequences for Religious Bias

Rachel A. Smith, Edward L. Fink, Deborah A. Cai, Carolyn E. Montagnolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As people hear about accidents, they may wonder who is responsible. We extended this work by testing a model of a two-party attribution process that starts with perceptions of self-other overlap. How we communicate about accidents can also shape how people think about the parties involved. To that end, we also examined the effects of including extra-evidential (social) information about the parties involved (e.g., a person’s religion) on self-other overlap and group bias. Participants (N = 252) read one of 12 versions of a vignette about a two-party car accident that varied accident severity, accident commission (i.e., implicit responsibility), and the driver’s stated religion (Christian, Muslim, or unstated). Results showed that as people perceived larger differences between themselves and the accident victim, they judged the victim as more responsible for the accident, the driver as less responsible, and the victim’s behavior as a more essential aspect of the victim’s character. In addition, we found that the driver’s religious label and accident commission interact to influence participants’ perceptions of themselves in relation to the driver (self-driver) and in relation to the victim (self-victim) in ways that advantaged the Christian driver but not the Muslim driver. The attribution process also had consequences for Muslim, but responsibility attribution, religious bias, self-other overlap, two-party accidents, accident severity ssed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-68
Number of pages21
JournalAsian Communication Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Linguistics and Language

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