People around us also have an impact on our decisions, and frequently for good cause. That is, we link undesirable conduct with the individual rather than the circumstance. Unless, of course, we're discussing ourselves. This is known as "the fundamental attribution mistake," a term invented by Lee Ross, a Stanford University social psychologist. The mistake refers to the tendency to explain other people's actions based on personal characteristics rather than on the situation they are in.
We make this error because it's easy to do. If someone else does something wrong, we want to know why they did that; perhaps they could be taught not to do it again. If no one explained Hitler's crimes, we would never have heard of the "final solution" or the "gas chambers." The only way to avoid making the fundamental attribution error is if you limit yourself to studying only those people who have done nothing wrong. It's hard enough as it is!
People look to others to explain their own behavior. This is natural; after all, we need others to understand what happens in our lives so they can help us deal with the challenges we face. However, when we make assumptions about another person's thoughts or feelings, we commit the fundamental attribution error.
For example, if I assume that you must be a bad person because you stole something from me, we've made the fundamental attribution error.
According to the Attribution Theory, we tend to explain our own and other people's behavior by attributing traits to it. Our conduct is impacted by two types of elements: situational (external) influences and dispositional (internal) ones. External factors include where you are, who you are with, and what you are wearing. Internal factors include your mood, feelings, and intentions.
The most common explanations for someone's actions are situational reasons. If I act aggressively toward you right now, there is a good chance that I am angry about something else. If not, then perhaps I have no reason to be angry with you. The fact that I am angry with someone else does not mean that I should take it out on you. Even if I were angry at everyone all the time, that would not change the fact that there are many other people for whom anger is not their main problem. They need food or water or safety or love, things that anger cannot give them.
Dispositional explanations focus on traits rather than circumstances. We can say that Bill has a temper, or that he is "angry sometimes," as opposed to always being angry.
We are social beings, and situation (rather than personality) frequently influences our judgments. Subtle environmental effects alter our behavior, yet we are oblivious to them. For example, when placed in a novel setting with no familiar people or objects, a person will often feel uncomfortable and act accordingly. This instinctual response is not intentional; it is a product of our environment-relative brain. Humans have the ability to understand why they are doing something, which means they can change their actions if needed. If you want to test this out for yourself, try this simple experiment: go to a quiet place where there are no distractions (i.e., a park alone at night) and make a choice (such as pick up a rock) about which you would usually complain (or not, depending on your personality). If you believe you do not control your choices, try explaining why not.
The majority of our incorrect judgments are made because they are comfortable and automatic. Our emotions lead us astray. Our understanding of time is distorted and tilted toward the present. Our subjective sense of status influences how we perceive others and ourselves. Our expectations influence what happens next. The list goes on and on.
We make wrong decisions because we are human. We are limited individuals who live in a world that is not always clear or simple. We need all the help we can get not to make mistakes and cause pain for ourselves and others, but we will never be able to avoid this entirely. However, with knowledge comes power, so use what you know about decision-making to improve your life and the lives of those around you.
Human conduct can only be effectively understood if it is viewed as being impacted directly or indirectly by others. When we are among others rather than alone, we modify our behavior (social facilitation). These demonstrate that others have an impact on our ideas, feelings, and behavior. Social influences can be positive or negative, depending on whether they increase or decrease the likelihood that someone will engage in a given activity.
Three types of social influences are known to shape human behavior: direct, indirect, and implicit. Direct social influences are those which involve physical contact between the influencer and the influenced. Indirect social influences are those which do not involve physical contact but still affect individuals' behaviors. For example, someone's reputation may affect their career opportunities or how much trust others place in them. Implicit social influences are defined as those which operate solely through learned behavior-for example, through observing or learning from others-and cannot be seen or felt by the individual being influenced.
Direct social influences tend to be stronger than indirect or implicit social influences because they require only physical contact for communication to take place. Physical contact allows for emotions to be transmitted between people which they can then use to influence one another. For example, when giving advice, you should give it sincerely even if you expect no return; otherwise, your listener won't believe you're trying to help them.
Sometimes, whether knowingly or unintentionally, a person's decisions might influence how others see that person. Others may react to us based on the choices we make, and their reactions may influence our future decisions. This is called "social influence" because it occurs when we look to others for guidance on what actions to take.
Social influence can be positive or negative. If you choose to follow the crowd and go with the flow, this is known as social conformity. You will be like everyone else and fit in well with your group. On the other hand, if you are willing to challenge the status quo, stand out from the crowd, and go against the grain, this is known as social innovation. You will be accepted by some people and rejected by others, but you won't conform to what others expect of you.
Social influence can be seen in many aspects of life. For example, if most students at your school drink milk then you might too. This is an example of social conformity. However, if most students at your school don't drink milk then this would be an indication that they are social innovators and you should not drink milk either.
You also might experience social influence when trying to persuade others to do something.
We are not liable for what others say to us. However, we are responsible for the activities we choose to do. When we fail to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, we miss out on the chance to remedy our mistakes, forcing us to make the same mistakes over and over again. Finally, our ideas govern our actions. If someone else controls our thoughts, we can't control our lives.
People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. The truth is they could change things if they only knew how. It's never too late to be wise...