The structure of attributional style: Cognitive styles and optimism-pessimism bias in the Attributional Style Questionnaire

Caimei Liu, Timothy C. Bates*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Explanatory style models of optimism focus on three aspects of attributions for the causes of positive and negative events: stability, pervasiveness, and internal-external control. These three aspects are predicted to cluster within each valence forming explanatory-style factors and these in turn are predicted to correlate negatively, in line with attributional accounts of depression. Here we report the first test of this full structure controlling for response non-independence. Discovery and replication samples of Chinese subjects completed the Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ). Negative event attributions fitted a three-dimensional structure as did positive events. Joint modeling of positive and negative events revealed that attributional biases to positive and negative events were uncorrelated. Moreover, three valence-independent cognitive styles (global-local, stable-unstable, and internal-external) explained much of the variance in responding. The ASQ should be interpreted within this framework. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • Attributional Style Questionnaire
  • Explanatory style
  • Optimism
  • Pessimism
  • Structural equation modeling

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