Perhaps the most pivotal concept in Social Psychology is the Fundamental Attribution Error. Understanding this concept can disabuse you of one of the most prevalent cognitive biases in social interaction.
The Fundamental Attribution Error explains how we fall short when analyzing the behaviors of those around us.
Fundamental Attribution Error: We attribute the behaviors of others to their disposition, and credit situational elements for our behaviors.
In other words, when we have a bad day because our cars broke down or we lost our wallets and subsequently lose our tempers with the people around us, we know that its because we are frustrated.
We fail, however, to extend that same courtesy to others.
We tend not to account for the situational factors that influence the behaviors of other people. We aren’t privy to their experiences or vantage points, so this is understandable.
You can witness this bias in action anytime you go out to eat.
When waiters are surly, we just assume that they are ill-tempered or ignorant of proper business-customer etiquette. We don’t consider that they may be having problems at home or just be frustrated after dealing with dozens of entitled and inconsiderate customers.
Understanding the significance of the Fundamental Attribution Error is important when dealing with the people around us. It’s critical for interaction with others in any social setting.
Awareness of the Fundamental Attribution Error heightens empathy and will provide valuable insight into all of your relationships.