I think 'attribute causes to events(line5)' should be 'attribute events to causes' although I am rather sure that I misunderstood. Why did the author write that way? Does attribute mean 'regard something as being caused by (someone or something)' in this context? The meaning evades me.

People are innately disposed to look for causes of events, to form explanations and stories. That is one reason storytelling is such a persuasive medium. Stories resonate with our experiences and provide examples of new instances. From our experiences and the stories of others we tend to form generalizations about the way people behave and things work. We attribute causes to events, and as long as these cause-­and-­effect pairings make sense, we use them for understanding future events. Yet these causal attributions are often mistaken. Sometimes they implicate the wrong causes, and for some things that happen, there is no single cause. Rather, there is a complex chain of events that all contribute to the result; if any one of the events would not have occurred, the result would be different. But even when there is no single causal act, that doesn’t stop people from assigning one.

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition

1 Answer 1


In this context, the author is using attribute to roughly mean attach. Therefore, the sentence reads as "We attach causes to events".

'Attribute events to causes' indicates that the causes are already existing, and when the event happens it is attached to a cause.

'Attribute causes to events' indicates that the cause is found retroactively, and may not have existed as a noticeable effect before the event occurred.

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