What Is the Fundamental Attribution Error?

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The fundamental attribution error theory states that we tend to explain our behavior by assigning attributes to the cause of the behavior. Find out how the fundamental attribution error underestimates the role of outside influences with information from a licensed mental health counselor in this free video on psychology.

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Video Transcript

Hi my name is John Bosworth. I'm a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in St. Pete, Florida and I would like to talk a little bit about what is the fundamental attribution error. The way we look at ourselves or the world kind of plays an important role in how we look at others' behavior. If we tend to be happy or gregarious or fun people we tend to look at others and see more of the positive aspects of other people in the world around us. If we tend to be a little bit more down or depressed or not easily motivated we tend to see that same type of behavior and characteristics in other people. Attribution theories state that we tend to explain our behavior and the behavior of others by assigning attributes and an attribute basically is an inference about the cause of behavior. In fundamental attribution error what we normally do without really knowing about it is we tend to assign or over emphasize internal views or characteristics to the behavior of others while we underestimate the role that outside influences might play. So just to give you a quick example that many people can relate to if you are driving down the road and you are trying to get somewhere or you might just be relaxing and driving along and somebody quickly cuts you off in traffic the majority of responses by people tend to be more of calling the person a four letter word or using very many expletives in describing the person's behavior or assigning an internal frame of reference toward that behavior whereas we are not really looking at maybe the external circumstances or the role that the environment plays that the guy that cut you off might have a pregnant wife in the back seat and you didn't even think of that, you just thought what a crazy you know what he was for cutting you off. So really over emphasizing the internal characteristics and personality of a person and attributing that to someone's behavior and underestimating the role that the external circumstances play is basically what is meant by the fundamental attribution error. My name is John Bosworth and I'm a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in St. Pete, Florida.

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