We make attributions every day about our own behaviors and the behaviors of the people that we interact with. And depending on what we attribute to the cause of a person or our behavior this directly affects our attitudes and behaviors toward that person. If our attributions are correct, then outcome can be positive, as they can help us to work more effectively with that person or to make better decisions for ourselves. However, if we make an error in our attribution of the cause of a behavior, then our own following behaviors can negatively compound the situation.
Consider the following situations that we have all experienced:
You go out to lunch with your friend and find that your waitress is a bit absentminded and is not in the best of mood as she takes your order and serves you. You tell your friend that this lady should not be a waitress and needs to find a new job because her attitude stinks.
You pull into a gas station and there is only one free pump, but you cannot get to it because there is a person at the first pump. You think to yourself “What a jerk, I can’t believe they did not pull up to the second pump.”
- Why were these attributions and assumptions made in each situation? Are they most likely accurate or not?
- What are some alternative explanations for the behaviors of the waitress and person pumping gas? Why do we typically not assume these later explanations but rather jump to the conclusions made in the examples?
- If you were the person in each of these scenarios and took a minute to look back at these behaviors would you have the same thoughts about yourself (you are in the wrong job or that you are a jerk)? Why might the attributions of your own behaviors be different than your attributions of others’ behaviors?
- With all of this in mind how will you apply this to your future attributions and associated behavior when faced with these types of situations?