Fundamental Attribution Error
February 26, 2007
Fundamental attribution error is the tendency for people to emphasize certain qualities or dispositions of others rather than giving proper weight to the situational aspects which have brought about a given behavior. A person will conclude that someone else has acted in a certain way because they are that ‘type’ of person. However, when an individual is assessing their own behavior they are more likely to attribute their action to a situational circumstance rather than attribute it to their character.
Due to the loss of nonverbal cues, activity on the internet can amplify such social psychological issues. An individual may read an email and assume the author is a slob, clumsy, or ignorant due to the number of spelling mistakes within. However, the same individual will excuse himself from the same behavior by stating that he was distracted by a telephone call while he was writing his response. The way an email is presented may be the only communication we have with the individual. The Internet is a limited environment where stereotypes are quickly established, whereas meetings in person can tell us more about an individual due to the greater number of cues available for perception.