Monday, February 18, 2013

"Fundamental Attribution Error" is tested

In the article, Speeding with Ned: a Personal View of the Correspondence Bias it is mentioned that one view of "Fundamental Attribution Error" (or "Correspondence Bias") is that it occurs in some circumstances (such the action is done freely) and not in others (when the action takes place because of constraints. However, Quattrone introduced the idea that people make these type of inferences no matter what circumstance and then adjust them after considering causes (if the situation was constrained or not). To prove this, instead of handing participants essays to read about Fidel Castro and telling them that they were instructed to be pro or anti-Castro (or not told anything, leaving them to assume the writing was done by choice) as it was done in the original experiment to prove Correspondence Bias, the participant is told about the writer's pre-existing views on the topic (pro or anti), and instead of asking the participants to measure whether the writer actually was pro or anti, they were asked to measure the situational pressures that had affected the writer by being asked what the commissioner's (the person who told the writer to write) opinion on the topic was. The results were that the reader determined that the writer's opinion was influenced by that of the commissioner, even if the writer had already had the same opinion. This experiment disproves the Correspondence bias because the participants chose a situatution-based explanation rather than a personality-based one. Ned, the main subject of the article, argues that this is "cheating" because the situational influence in the experiment was the opinion of another.  The author of the article points out that social psychologists have known about this affect for a while ("people look to the behaviors of others to tell them what is happening in the world around them".).

In my opinion, I disagree with Ned in that this experiment does not really disprove the Correspondence Bias. The writer was influenced by situation, whether or not the situation was another's opinion or behavior; it is still a force beyond the subject's own self. However, asking the participants what the commissioner's opinion was puts the idea of the commissioner's opinion influencing the writer's in the readers' mind, so they naturally are going to respond with a situational explanation.


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