ID #: 02-8639
General Topic: Attribution
Specific Topic: Fundamental Attribution Error
Last week I went to the Ticketmaster
at the Briarwood Mall to buy tickets to see the Yankees play at Tiger Stadium.
I told the woman there that I wanted four seats as close to the Yankeesí
dugout as possible, but she told me she could only search for tickets by
price range. So I said the $20 seats would be fine.
She then told me they had four seats in leftfield together for $20 each.
When I reminded her that I wanted to sit near the dugout, she got all irritated
and said she could only do a computer search for the best available seats
remaining. I kept trying to get the seats I wanted, but she insisted
I would have to buy tickets at the Stadium if I wanted specific seats.
I left the mall cursing under my breath about what an unhelpful, brain-dead
sales clerk this woman was.
In retrospect, I fell victim to the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). I attributed her unwillingness to give me the seats I wanted to stable personality characteristics, which led me to view this woman as unfriendly and incompetent. I never considered the situational factors that might have influenced her behavior. This woman was clearly being forced to use an outdated computer program that restricted what she could do and how she could search for tickets. This probably led many customers, like myself, to become agitated with her. I imagine such a work environment would lead most people to be rather ornery and to appear unhelpful. My main focus was on getting tickets, so I wasnít motivated to make careful attributions about her behavior. In a situation where accurate impression formation was more important, I might have been less likely to use a cognitive shortcut and fall victim to the FAE. The funny thing is, even though I now realize I committed the FAE, I still have a hard time convincing myself that this woman wasnít less friendly and less intelligent than your average person.
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