Applicant Attribution-Reaction Theory

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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Applicant Attribution-Reaction Theory

Ployart and Harold proposed a new theory called the Applicant Attribution-Reaction Theory (AART) by combining both theories from applicants reactions literature and of attribution theories. AART states that attributional processes are in fact causing the responses of applicants’, such as test performance or perceptions. Thus, these perceptions barely have explanatory power, they are the consequences of attributional processes.
The authors describe 7 steps in AART, listed below:
1. Objective Event: this part represents the staffing processes that take place, such as the meetings, selection methods, the completion of a test or being a participant in an interview. By answering the question which events will encourage attributional search, these types of events are often characterized by being surprising, important, undesirable or stressful. Events with such conditions will most of the times result in a search for what caused the event.
The following four points are considered as the Attributional Process, which is the most important part of AART:
2. Perceived Situation: This part is representing the interpretation of the event by the applicants. An important implication of this part needs to be mentioned: not all situational features are seen as being important to applicants. Features are likely to be salient when they are novel, or goal-important and when they violate one’s beliefs. As a result it is more likely to perceive negative events.
3. Expectation: this part includes a set of standards/ rules such as consistency. The theory says it is possible for rules which are important to the applicant to affect the perception of a situation.
4. Perceived satisfaction or Violation: in this step the applicant will compare step 2 (perceived situation) with his/ her own expectation (step 3).
5. Attribution: The following step is characterized by making a stable and controllable, internal or external attribution for an events’ cause. This point represents an important difference between AART and other theories of applicant reactions: the particular cause of the event is LESS important than the attribution of that event.

6. Behavioral Consequences: As a result of the attributional examination, the applicant has certain behavioral and attitudinal reactions. In fact this is one of the key issues of AART as I mentioned before: the attributional processes are causing applicants’ reactions.
7. Cultural/Individual differences: A last feature of AART is that it includes cultural and individual differences. These differences might have an indirect or direct effect on the attributional process and this point can therefore not be ignored.

Source: Ployhart, R.E. and C.M. Harold. (2004). “The Applicant Attribution-Reaction Theory(AART): An Integrative Theory of Applicant Attributional.” International Journal of Selection and Assessment, Vol 12.\.


Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

AART Theory in Brief

Indeed AART theory proposes that in recruitment, selection and assessment processes, job applicants'... Sign up


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