attributional errors

attributional errors

I love that you brought in a discussion on attributional errors. The discussions on the fundamental attribution error are some of my favorite, and I love examining ideas on trying to reduce how often it occurs. One interesting thing to note about the fundamental attribution error is that there are cultural differences in attribution patterns (for one example, see Li et al., 2012). Despite this, I tend to think that most people have at some point attributed a behavior inaccurately. When I first learned about the fundamental attribution error, I became very aware of how often I would attribute behavior to an internal cause without taking into consideration what else might be occurring. Now whenever I am faced with an opportunity to make an attribution, I make an effort to come up with a number of explanations for behavior in order to avoid leaping to ill-advised conclusions. My son has picked up on this habit as well, and now if I make an internal attribution, he will readily point out the flaw. Not too long ago, I was driving him to the airport in Chicago in heavy construction and bad weather, and I had a driving incident (I do readily admit that most of my fundamental attribution errors occur while driving). I muttered something unflattering about this other driver, and my son pipes up with, “But mom, you don’t know what’s going on with that driver. Maybe he is having car trouble, or maybe he is lost, or maybe he got some bad news.” It was nice to see that he has learned about the danger of snap judgments – even though I apparently have not. In continuing the dialogue, do you think that in addition to cultural differences to attributions there are age differences in the tendency to make the fundamental attribution error? My son seems less prone to making internal attributions than me, but this may be because he has had to suffer through years of my schooling and discussing these ideas with him. Would there be a way to explore the idea empirically?

 

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