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Correspondence Bias in Performance Evaluation: Why Grade Inflation Works

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Don Moore
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Performance (such as a course grade) is a joint function of an individual's ability (such as intelligence) and the situation (such as the instructor's grading leniency). Prior research has documented a human bias toward dispositional inference, which ascribes performance to individual ability, even when it is better explained through situational influences on performance. It is hypothesized here that this tendency leads admissions decisions to favor students coming from institutions with lenient grading because those students have their high grades mistaken for evidence of high ability. Three experiments show that those who obtain high scores simply because of lenient grading are favored in selection. These results have implications for research on attribution because they provide a more stringent test of the correspondence bias and allow for a more precise measure of its size. Implications for university admissions and personnel selection decisions are also discussed.