Edward Jones was a 20th century psychologist who developed several theories regarding person perception—the study of how people judge and understand others' perceptions and motives. 

Professional Life

Edward Ellsworth Jones was born in 1927 in Buffalo, New York. He received his BA in 1949 and his PhD in clinical psychology in 1953 from Harvard University. Jones spent most of his professional career as a social psychologist at Duke University before he moved to Princeton, where he joined the department of psychology in 1977. Jones focused his work on the process of attribution, the process people use to account for the behavior of others and to explain why something happened.

Contribution to Psychology

As a social psychologist, Jones developed several theories explaining social interactions. Fundamental attribution error explains how people view the behavior of others as a product of personal traits, while they perceive their own to be based upon circumstance. In other words, a person tends to attribute another person's behavior primarily to personality rather than as a consequence of that person’s situation. For example, a person might attribute a student's failure on a test to his or her low intelligence or unwillingness to work, rather than exploring the possibility that the test was unfair or that the student was under immense stress.

Correspondent inference theory is a theory Jones developed alongside Keith Davis. The theory explains how people evaluate another person’s choices by looking for a correlation between that person’s motives and behavior, particularly when the person behaves in an unexpected manner. Jones also explained the concept of out-group homogeneity, which argues that people view members outside their group as more similar to one another than members inside their group. This theory can partially explain racism, patriotism, and xenophobia. For example, an American might view all Americans as unique, while believing that all people from another country have similar personalities and appearances.

He developed the concept of self-handicapping, which is the tendency of people to make actions harder for themselves. In so doing, they can attribute mistakes and failures to circumstance rather than to any innate intelligence or ability. Much of Edward's work was in the field of impression management, a concept he helped develop. Impression management is the study of how people control their public image and the perceptions others have of them. A person posting only flattering pictures on a social networking site, for example, is engaged in impression management.


  1. Dr. edward E. jones, social psychologist, 66. (1993, Aug 04). New York Times. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/429232922?accountid=1229
  2. Edward E(llsworth) Jones. (2003). Contemporary Authors Online. Biography In Context. Retrieved from http://www.gale.cengage.com/InContext/bio.htm