Τετάρτη, 26 Μαΐου 2010

The fundamental attribution error

Let's all do an exercise. Take the time and think of some behaviours that irritate you. For example, it really pisses me off when people lie to me. Grrrrr....! I hate those big fat liars! I'm sure you guys out there can find stuff that turn you off. Like when someone interrupts you when you're trying to make a point or when someone takes food from your plate or when someone blocks a sidewalk with their car. Aren't these all uncivilized behaviours? What are these people thinking? There must be something terribly wrong with them, right?
Wrong... I hate liars, but i have lied a zillion times. I 'm sure you've interrupted people in conversations, i'm sure you've left your car somewhere you weren't supposed to. So stuff that annoy us are stuff we do too. But what exactly makes these behaviours irritating when others engage in them and why do we do things that we hate in others?
It is the wonderful "fundamental attribution error", as labelled by Ross (1977). Numerous social psychological studies have demonstrated that we generally tend to attribute others' behaviour to their personality or characteristic attitude, basically ignoring situational factors. Others' choices, we believe, result from free will (not from social norms or roles or pressures) and thus reflect aspects of their personalities. However, when coming to explain our own behaviour, we tend to ascribe it to external factors.
Let's go back to my very own example of lying. I hate being lied to. People who lie to me are liars, they normally lie, because they were brought up in a way to believe that lying is cool or convenient or whatever, they'll lie for ever and ever until they die! Me? Yes... I've lied sometimes... But i had to do it. I had to protect others from the truth! Come on, who wouldn't prefer a beautiful lie from the ugly truth?

Ross, L. (1977). The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings. In Berkowitz, L. (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol.10, pp. 174-220). New York: Academic Press.

Δευτέρα, 24 Μαΐου 2010

Homo Pacificus

Alright, here we go. So, we live in a blue-green-brown little planet, called Earth. We’re about 7 billion humans from various national, ethnic, religious, political backgrounds. We are either male or female (there are some hermaphrodites too), heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or of some other sexual orientation. We are tall or short, fat or slim, we are rich or poor or somewhere in the middle, we are good swimmers or bad swimmers… Oh, I could go on forever!

My point is that Earth has 7 billion human inhabitants, who belong to probably another 7 billion different groups, categories and subcategories. One could argue that conflict in such a diverse world is inevitable. We see it in the animal world everyday! Big fish eat little fish, lions eat zebras, cats eat mice. There you go! Mm… Really??? Is it that simple?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe humans are superior beings in any sense other than their brain. And civilization. And imagination. Anyway, I’m not saying humans are free of animal instincts. All I’m saying is that they can act beyond them. And conflict is NOT inevitable. At least not in my imaginary new world, among my imaginary new type of humans: homo pacificus. Care to join in?

Intro

There is this unwritten rule for people to start their blogging careers by introducing themselves. I'm not going to lie to you. I don't really know why i'm here, why i'm typing these words or what the heck i want to put accross. All i know is that i don't really like the world these days, but i have this ridiculously romantic attitude to life. Yes, i admit it. I am a fool, i am a humanist. I don't believe humans are a greedy, competitive species. I know we're better than that. But, hey, don't criticize! I've already told you i'm a fool.