Saturday, April 26

The Fundamental Attribution Error (and possible diagnosis for the bird)

I was pulling out of a restaurant parking lot today when a person drove up who was trying to enter the parking lot. Yeah, I was there first, but I was also leaving out the "entry only" way (unwittingly). Apparently she wasn't too happy because I got the authoritative flip-off.

This is like a regular flip off, except at least three of the following criteria must be met:
  1. One's body must turn sharply prior to performing the flip-off.
  2. Must be done with visible aggression towards the receiving person(s).
  3. Must be accompanied by unusual or angst-ridden facial expressions.
  4. Performance of the flip-off must cause clinically significant distress in either the doer or the receiver.
  5. Must not be due to a general medical condition, such as a migraine headache, acute prostatitis, or obesity.
  6. Must not be better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Schizophrenia, disorganized type.
  7. If done from a vehicle, must not be due to marked clinical distress caused by driving a partially wrecked car, such as one with the driver's side rear-view mirror nearly falling off.
After the incident the driver sped by, attempted a donut, and was finally able to enter the parking lot and eat her carne in peace, hopefully.

Now for the attribution error.

The Fundamental Attribution Error is a psychological principle that says when we do something good, we attribute it to our person.  When we do something bad, we attribute it to chance, bad luck, or environmental factors.  When an other does something good, we attribute it do chance or environment, and when they do something bad we attribute it to their person.

So, I am happy to report that after receiving said obscene gesture, I thought to myself, "maybe she's upset about her car being dented, or maybe she's really hungry, or perhaps she suffers from an uncontrollable tic" - rather than thinking, "What a jerk," which I would have thought if I had not of had the lesson on the attribution error three days ago.


  1. Hee hee..this made me happy. The psychology lesson and the humor, not the fact that you got the bird. -Krystle

  2. We are interesting creatures. It takes an effort to leave the "natural man" behind, but I'm glad you were able to do so in this case.

  3. Sometimes when people do things that I think are stupid, I try to remember that I do stupid things sometimes too. Other times I just think they must be stupid.

    Like today for instance, someone was supposed to come talk about our landscaping. We had an appointment, which was for an hour ago. No phone call, no person showing up...

    They must be idiots. :)

    (although between the time I started writing this and now when I am actually posting, they did show up- just an hour late)

  4. So were you happy that you did not think her a jerk? Could it not just have been that you had had a good morning or a stable upbringing? ;)

  5. latter-day guy - Actually, I'm sure about 90% of it was that I was in a great mood at the time, lol. I'd like to say that I learned so much from class that my reaction was just a reflection of who I am, but I'm afraid I may have to attribute it to outside circumstances. : )


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