Motivated Responsibility Attribution in a Pandemic: Roles of Political Orientation, Perceived Severity, and Construal Level

Xinyan Zhao, Stephanie J. Tsang, Sifan Xu


Previous research has revealed the significant role of responsibility attribution in crisis communication. Integrating motivated reasoning theory, attribution theory, and construal level theory, this study examined the factors associated with Americans’ attribution of responsibility to the Chinese government during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our results, derived from a nationally representative sample, showed that political conservatism was positively associated with the locality and accountability of responsibility attribution. The perceived severity and construal level of attribution related to the locality of attribution, such that those who perceived higher severity and a lower construal level (i.e., more specific attribution) perceived higher internal locality. The findings suggest the need to understand individuals’ motivated reasoning in responsibility attribution during crises.


attribution of responsibility, issue involvement, severity, political orientation, construal level, pandemic

Full Text: