Monday, February 20, 2012

Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental Attribution Error explains how people interpret the behavior of others. It shows how a person under perceives the influence of a situation over behavior, and over perceives personality factors. For example; if Jim saw Dave ask a girl out, and get rejected, he might assume Dave didn't know how to talk to girls. But if Jim was rejected by a girl, he would tell himself that the girl just wasn't looking for a boyfriend despite how great he is.

This Theory was tested in the famous experiment by Edward E. Jones and Victor Harris in 1967 called "The Attribution of Attitudes." In this experiment they had participants listen to both pro and anti Fidel Castro essays. The half the participants were told that the writers of the essays chose their pro or anti stance; and the other half were told that the writers did not choose they stance they had to write about. "The major hypothesis (which was confirmed with
varying strength in all three experiments) was that choice would
make a greater difference when there was a low prior probability
of someone taking the position expressed in the speech"

What they found was the choice did not make a difference in the perception of the participant. Regardless of what they were told, participants ranked the writers as being pro or anti Castro based on their essay, even if they were told the writers did not have a choice as to which stance they took. Jones and Harris concluded that these findings could explain important implications for interpersonal relations, and basically explain why people perceive things they way we do.

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