Date of Award

Fall 1984

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The primary purpose of this study was twofold. First, an Attribution of Responsibility for Substance Use scale (ARSU) was developed with a sample of 140 university substance users and 69 substance abusers. Second, this study determined if the actor-observer hypothesis of traditional attribution theory (Jones and Davis, 1965) held using the ARSU.

The ARSU scale contains six questions which focus on an individual's reasons and perceptions of other individuals reasons for initiating and ending substance use. Subjects were also administered the 11 item Rotter's IE scale (Valecha, 1972).

Initial assessments indicated that the ARSU scale was valid and reliable for measuring perceived causes for substance use behavior. Evidence was also found that indicated the ARSU was superior to Rotter's scale for distinguishing between substance users and abusers.

The actor-observer hypothesis was not wholly supported. It was expected that individuals would agree more strongly with external causes for initial substance use when referring to themselves rather than others. This pattern was not found.

For ending substance use, it was expected that individuals would place more emphasis on the internal reasons for their own cessation than for others. This pattern was found for university students. However, rehabilitation individuals placed equal weight on internal causes for both themselves and others. These individuals also rated external reasons as being very important for their own cessation.

These findings suggest that the fundamental attribution error (dispositional attributions made more frequently towards others, Ross; 1977), may not hold under all circumstances. In fact, attributions may change depending on a number of factors including the importance of the situation.