CHECK YOURSELF WITH THE FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR

This was one of the most eye opening things I ever learned.
  1. The "Fundamental Attribution Error" is a concept in social psychology.
  2. It is the tendency for people to attribute behavior in others to *character* rather than to external factors.
  3. It does not apply to how we judge our *own* behavior.
    And possibly some of the behaviors of those very close to us in some situations.
  4. But left unchecked it applies to our judgement of everyone else.
  5. For example, if I speak harshly to my children at the grocery I know that I am exhausted, it has been a difficult day, and my child has been abnormally ill behaved, that we have a good relationship, and even that I feel a little bad about it.
  6. When I see you speak to your child this way, I attribute it to your character: You're impatient, you're unloving, you don't recognize the importance of supporting your children.
  7. We all do this.
  8. All the time.
  9. It is the deeply subconscious automatic way we experience each other.
  10. We find it in small spontaneous judgements (sometimes called correspondence inferences) and in long term character assessments built over time.
  11. That driver is a jerk...
    I was just in a hurry.
  12. That teacher is mean...
    I just needed to be firm in that situation.
  13. He's totally unhelpful...
    I have a ton on my plate right now.
  14. She's emotionally unavailable...
    I have too many things to worry about right now.
  15. He's so stupid...
    I just have a feeling this is true.
  16. I read about this several years ago and ever since then I've seen it at work in my own mind, against my will, always there.
  17. So today as you go about your business maybe think about the fundamental attribution error.
  18. And when people let you down in ways big and small, try to remember...
  19. It is what they did, not who they are.