By Dr. Paula Bloom
It seems so easy for us to view others as being good or bad. In our early stages of growth it’s normal to see the world in black and white. Think about the fairy tales we read to our children and the superhero cartoons we let them watch. Time and time again we see people as caricatures. Are you the good guy or the bad guy? If only it was that simple.
As we get older, we develop (well, the ideal is to develop) a more nuanced view of human nature. We each have our relative strengths and weakness. We each have moments of strength and weakness.
In social psychology there’s an interesting concept known as the fundamental attribution error. Basically what it states is that there’s a difference in how we explain others’ behavior versus how we explain our own. With others we might assume that their “bad” behavior is a result of their personality. While with ourselves, we might explain that it has to do with external situational factors. So, for example, take driving: how many times do you honk at someone, call them a name I can’t even write here, because they cut you off? Now, think about how irritated you get when someone has the the gall to honk at you when you are trying to move over three lanes and happen to cut them off. That person’s a jerk and you’re just trying to get off on the next exit? Hmm.
I recommend that if you ever get the chance to go see the musical Wicked you go. (And no, this is not an official review and I’m not receiving any kind of compensation from the show.) Oh, and if you decide to drive to the show, consider the fundamental attribution bias.
Next time you’re about to call someone a bad name, imagine what it would be like if you yourself were doing the same thing. Maybe they are trying to get to the hospital to see their new grandkid. How many lanes of traffic might you cross to meet a new family member?
A note: It was my Easy Spirit Anti-Gravity Women’s Get Walkin Clogs that made me think to write this post forFootSmart. “Defying Gravity” and “Anti-Gravity” sound pretty similar, right? I wouldn’t say that these shoes make you feel like you’re flying (like the character does in the show) but they do kind of feel like you’re walking on air. So comfy.