Fundamental Attribution Error

The ‘fundamental attribution error’ is the psychological phenomenon where people tend to use contextual factors to explain their own behavior and use character traits to explain other people’s behavior. For example, if someone else kicks the vending machine, it’s because they have anger issues, whereas when you kick the vending machine, it’s because you’re late for the bus and you had a bad day.

People usually conclude that we should use context to explain other people’s behaviors more, and this is certainly wise. But I think the reverse failure is common too. People under use personality traits to explain their own behavior. I almost never hear, “I got angry partly because I have an anger problem that I should work on.”

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