Hostile Attribution Bias

Hostile attribution bias, or hostile attribution of intent, is the tendency to interpret others’ behaviors as having hostile intent, even when the behavior is ambiguous or benign. This is also referred to as the presumption of malice, which is a variation of ante animus, or assuming the intent.

This is the assumption that the action or words of others is because of malicious intent. This typically happens because when someone displays an action or belief that lies outside what we believe, we can struggle to make sense of it. We believe our conclusions are always arrived at logically, or that we are justified in our belief, so alternatives seem to be illogical or unjustified. Therefore, we assume others have some ulterior motive that is likely unscrupulous.


  • the opposing political party voted no on a proposal we find to be ethical or completely logical, therefore the only explanation must be that the other party is evil

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