I am neck-deep in studying for a mid-term, but I couldn’t let Leap Day go by without a post.
I am taking a Sports Psychology course and I love everything about it. So much of what I am learning applies directly to my own athletic pursuits and, as with many things in psychology, it also applies to other areas of behaviour. What I am realizing is that we don’t really think the way we think we think–or in other words–we are not nearly as logical as we believe ourselves to be. We are full of biases that lead us to make erroneous assumptions about people’s actions.
Example: Fundamental Attribution Error This causes us to overemphasize the importance of internal causes of behaviour and under emphasize the importance of external causes. Let me explain. If my friend Janice is twenty minutes late picking me up for yoga, my first reaction will be to think that she doesn’t care enough to be on time and that she is disorganized and forgetful (all causes that lie within her). What I will not readily consider is that she may have been stuck in traffic or have received an important phone call from work that she had to take (all causes that are outside of her). There are all sorts of theories for why we do this, but I like simplicity. It doesn’t really matter why we do it, but knowing that we have a tendency to do this is helpful. ‘Cause then when I am tempted to leap to the conclusion that Janice is a bitch who can’t be bothered to show up on time, I will hopefully remember that I don’t really know why she is late and that I should find out the real reason before I decide that that it some internal defect.
Wouldn’t the world be a kinder, gentler place if we all stopped making fundamental attribution errors? How about if we all just err on the side of caution and assumed the best instead of the worst? There is a quote that is attributed to Plato that sums this up nicely. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” Let’s try and all be on the same side.