ID #: 02-8639
General Topic: Attribution
Specific Topic: Fundamental Attribution Error
My girlfriend took the LSAT this
morning so I told her I would take her out to eat to celebrate finishing
the test. I didnít bother making a reservation because I wasnít sure
when we were going to go. I picked her up at 6:45, but when I got
there she was mad because she said I had told her Iíd get her at 6:00.
Then, when we got to the restaurant, there was a two-hour wait, and every
other place on Main Street was just as crowded. I could tell she
was pretty mad at me, and she didnít make much conversation during dinner
once we finally sat down. After I dropped her back at her place,
I thought to myself that it probably hadnít been a good idea to take her
out since I knew sheíd be tired and in a bad mood after the test.
I made a situational attribution for my girlfriendís behavior, which means I didnít fall victim to the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). If I had shown the FAE, I wouldíve attributed her bad mood and irritability to her personality, not to the pressure she was under to do well on the test and the fatigue she must have felt after taking it. Maybe the FAE is less likely to occur when you know a person well. When you make attributions for the behavior of someone you just met, itís often easiest to assume their acts result from their personality. If I had been on a blind date, maybe I wouldíve made the FAE in explaining my dateís behavior. But Iíve known my girlfriend for almost a year, and Iíve seen her in several different situations, so I know that her moods change depending on situational factors. It would be interesting to do an experiment where you ask some people to make attributions about a person they had never met before, and others to make attributions about a close friend. Iíd bet that the FAE is less likely when you make attributions for a close other, just like itís less likely when you try to account for your own behavior.
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