The fundamental attribution error (also known as correspondence bias or over-attribution effect) is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing situational explanations. (McLeod, 2018, p.1)
In other words, people have a cognitive bias to assume that a person's actions depend on what "kind" of person that person is rather than on the social and environmental forces that influence the person. (McLeod, 2018, p.2)
The fundamental attribution error is our tendency to explain someone's behavior based on internal factors, such as personality or disposition, and to underestimate the influence that external factors, such as situational influences, have on another person's behavior. To visualize this fact, We tend to see others as internally motivated and responsible for their behavior. This could be because of perceptual salience, that is, the other person is what we see most of when we look at them, or it could be that we lack more detailed information about what causes their behavior.
Above all, the term was coined by Lee Ross some years after the now-classic experiment by Jones and Harris. Ross (1977) argued in a popular paper that the fundamental attribution error forms the conceptual bedrock for the field of social psychology. (As cited in McLeod, 2018, p.3-5)
Perhaps the saddest example of the tendency to make internal attributions whether they are warranted or not is blaming the victim. If giving someone our sympathy or blaming the true culprit somehow causes us dissonance, we may hold the victim responsible for his or her own pain and suffering. "He had it coming," and "she was asking for it" are all-too-common phrases.
Fundamental attribution bias may not be universal across cultures. While American children were found by Miller (1984), as they grow older, to place increasing reliance upon disposition as an explanation of events observed, the Hindu children of India by contrast based their explanations more on situations. This finding is consistent with the theory that some countries, like the U.S., emphasize an individualistic self-concept. Raised in a society that places a premium on individual achievement and uniqueness, Americans seem to develop a tendency to focus on characteristics of the individual in making attributions. (McLeod, 2018, p.6)
McLeod, B. S. (2018). Fundamental Attribution Error. Retrieved from Simply Psychology Logo: https://www.simplypsychology.org/fundamental-attribution.html
Mitchel. (2018). Self-fulfilling Prophecy and Student Performance. Retrieved from penstate: https://sites.psu.edu/aspsy/2018/10/28/self-fulfilling-prophecy-and-student-performance/
Sara. (2018). Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in Psychology: Definition & Examples Video. Retrieved from Study.com: https://study.com/academy/lesson/self-fulfilling-prophecies-in-psychology-definition-examples.html
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