Why We Judge Others Harsher Than Ourselves -Mental Model 020

Fundamental Attribution Error

“When we look at others we see personality traits that explain their behaviour, but when we look at ourselves we see circumstances that explain our behaviour … we explain by permanent, enduring traits what would be better explained by circumstance and context.” — Eliezer Yudkowsky.


Fundamental Attribution Error Example:

In an experiment, participants read essays that were positive towards Fidel Castro and essays that were negative. When they were told people had freely chosen to write pro Fidel Castro essays—they rated the writer to personally hold positive attitudes towards Castro (as we would expect). But when people were told the writer’s position on Castro—positive or negative—was determined by a coin toss, they still rated writers of pro Castro essays as having a more positive attitude towards him. They ignored the context of the participants behaviour.



“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” ― T.S. Eliot, British essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and “one of the twentieth century’s major poets”


Read More:

> Fundamental attribution error on Wikipedia

> Fundamental attribution error on Farnam Street Blog

> Correspondence Bias on Less Wrong


Also Known As:

Correspondence bias, attribution effect