The Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) is a principle in psychology where during an event, an individual will tend to overemphasize environmental factors for their own actions, though tend to overemphasize personal factors for others. To put this into a more Integrally informed way, when shit goes down, everyone ‘knows’ they are not trying to cause it, so they see the external factors that influence oneself. However, when they see someone else mess up, they will tend to over attribute things to that person’s internal factors.
In traffic for example, as a polite driver yourself, you are following rules. Another driver cuts into the traffic in front of you. What do you think about that situation? Careful of FAE. Usually people would react with some pejorative, “Asshole, be considerate!”. As we can see the immediate external environment, we tend to overemphasize the internal personal characteristics of the other person.
Now, as polite drivers ourselves, we wouldn’t do the same, however, “Honk!”. Some driver is honking at us. Why? Well, this time we’d say “Sorry, I didn’t see you.” or “There’s plenty of space”. Now as the tables have turned and we are causing the disruption in this situation, which as polite drivers we don’t intend, we often over attribute external factors.
If however, we are able to practice looking at both internal and external factors for all events, more of a 4 Quadrant view of things, then we will be better able to additionally assume that the first driver who cut us off, may be rushing to the hospital, or momentarily absent minded, or just plain having a bad day. We too, could be more able to look at ourselves when we get honked at and potentially identify that our actions were selfish without thought for others, or that we were driving for an unfocused moment.
In short, it is usually about their personality, but my environment. Why not think about my personality and their environment?
“Despite all appearances, no one is really evil. They are lead astray by ignorance.” These were Buddha’s words, mine are simply to give people the benefit of the doubt. It may be that you are missing some important information. To be certain that you aren’t missing information without time and effort to check is ignorance leading you astray.
To start a practice of looking for more information, I would recommend practicing a 4 quadrant outlook on life. This is one good way to help counter the habituation of mind and the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) that we all experience.