Fundamental Attribution Error

Been listening to the No Stupid Questions Podcast by Stephen Dubner (of Freakonomics fame) and Angela Duckworth (of ‘Grit’ fame); they make references to the ‘Fundamental Attribution Error’ first identified and studied by psychologist Lee Ross. Wikipedia’s entry uses the following description:

This effect has been described as “the tendency to believe that what people do reflects who they are”, that is, to overattribute their behaviors (what they do or say) to their personality and underattribute them to the situation or context. 

On reflection, a lot of us are actually aware of the problem not so much in ourselves but others; and so much so that we can become so conscious about curating ourselves, especially at work. We don’t want to appear stupid because we are actually aware that people over-attribute it to us; that we are stupid and ignorant not because of the circumstances because we fundamentally are so.

We could have chosen to respond differently; we could have opted to be gracious and kind towards others, to recognise that whatever happens could be just the individual in the situation rather than just that individual himself/herself. And in so doing, we also learn to be more forgiving of ourselves.

We could make choices that improves the world with our knowledge and awareness rather than the ones that makes us more self-conscious, and fearful.