Sunday, July 03, 2011
Fundamental Attribution Error
Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) is a fancy way of saying humans aren't very good at determining the reason behind people's behavior. Specifically, we overestimate the inherent qualities that contribute to an event and underestimate the situation itself. For other people. When it's ourselves, we're more likely to assume it's the result of the situation.
For example, if Susie spills milk we conclude Susie is clumsy. If we spill milk, we conclude the glass was slippery or a book was in the way when we sat the glass down or whatever. But the fact that milk is pouring onto the floor is in no way related to our own lack of attention. However, Susie, that klutz, made a big mess because she's a clumsy pig.
You get the general idea.
I don't know why, but this popped into my head today and I was wondering why we humans don't take advantage of the knowledge we have. The original study that pointed this out was done in the sixties, I believe. It seems we've had plenty of time to work it into the common knowledge of the culture and learn to compensate for it, but we haven't.
I'm as guilty as the next person about not really using the information I have at hand in one fashion or another. But I do wonder why we are this way. It would seem that we are deficient in a most basic way. Most animals use what they learn. Humans, not as much.
What is wrong with us? Whatever it is, I'm sure it's some other people who are preventing me from taking advantage of it.
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Posted by Patsy Terrell at 9:37 PM
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