Curse of the Fundamental Attribution Error

Don’t cross a line you can’t come back from

First and foremost, let’s start by defining what the Fundamental Attribution Error is. The Fundamental Attribution Error is simply when you make a judgement about someone’s personality based off their behavior within a situation without considering the factors that may have played a role in the behavior. Or to simply put it, a false assumption.

Suppose you’re driving along the highway, and someone sped in front of you. Chances are, you may have shouted a few profanities here and there, followed by some name calling. Now, pause. Did you notice how easy it was for you quickly make assumptions about the person without considering why they were speeding in the first place? Would your perspective change if you knew the driver was the husband of a pregnant wife, racing to get to the hospital to deliver their baby?

We’ve all fallen victim to the Fundamental Attribution Error in one way or another, but we are all also culprits in performing it as well. It’s hard not to make an assumption if your boyfriend or girlfriend haven’t answered your text in 7 hours! However, keep in mind that false assumptions can lead to bad relationships and even change your perspective on the person.

Here are 2 ways that can help you avoid the curse of the Fundamental Attribution Error:

  1. Think before you judge. Its important to consider other factors that may have played a role in the person’s behavior. Ask yourself, why did he/she do that? By doing so, you not only avoid making a B&W (Black-and-White) decision but you are also doing yourself a favor by creating a helpful habit of decision making. Consider other factors, ask yourself questions and don’t quickly assume for someones behavior. Most of the time, there are other factors involved.
  2. Simply ask. Deviation from a normal behavior pattern can indicate that something is wrong. Instead of judging the person’s overall personality based off his/her behavior at the given time, by asking what the problem is, creates a better understanding for both parties.

It’s hard to avoid such a habit because we are so prone to doing this. With constant practice and embracing the knowledge of knowing why, these are steps to avoiding the Fundamental Attribution Error.