This week as I was reading through Quora, I came across an interesting concept that I have never heard of- The Fundamental Attribution Error. Think about a time when you were in class and thought about John who is always failing his exams. The first thought that came into your mind probably was that:
He is lazy, he hates reading.
What about the time you were in traffic and someone came in and cut in front of you or kept trying to overlap you? What did you think?
She is rude. She doesn’t respect others. She thinks she has better things to do than us.
Or think of the person who is always late in your evening class. What did you think about them?
He can’t keep time? He doesn’t value education?
Yet again, think of the flip side; about the time you failed your exams. What was your excuse? Perhaps it was, “I had a horrible lecturer this semester, or the lecturer only tested the topics I hadn’t read or no one could really answer the questions on that exam?” What about the time you were in a bus that kept overlapping the rest in traffic and you were so late for your class or meeting? Didn’t you think that this was amazing or luck was on your side that day. And the day you were late for your evening class, wasn’t traffic enough justification?
Everyday we judge other people based on what we think of them and not on the situations they might have been in. John may have just been having trouble understanding the lecturer…or they may be going through a rough patch. The other person may have overlapped because they had an emergency. Yet, when bad things happen to us we attribute them to situational factors that need to be excused. We don’t attribute them to personality like we do for others. This the Fundamental Attribution Error.
Most of the time, there are reasons why people do the things they do; if only you keenly listened to them or if you were empathetic enough to care. So maybe the next time you judge someone, consider that you may be making the Fundamental Attribution Error.
Have a great week!