Psychology Reflective

9 September 2016

After having various lessons, I would like to have a deeper evaluation of the chapter “Behavior in Social and Cultural Context” especially the concept of attributions . It is known that there are two types of attributions which are internal attributions and external attributions that we generally use to explain our own or other’s behaviors. Internal factors concern a person’s traits while external factors concern the external environment. In addition, I am actually shocked by the fact that there is a fundamental attribution error when we are explaining others’ behaviors.

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There is a real-life example that I would like to share. Last Monday, I was stuck in a traffic jam for half an hour on Nathan Road. I had a lesson at 8:30 am in Core A and I reached the pedestrian bridge at 8:25 am, so I was rushing to the classroom. At that moment, a scene annoyed me most and stopped my way to school. A boy who was around six years old was too energetic. He dashed and rushed around on the footbridge that disturbed others’ way. He also guffawed and touched or played with anything and everything he saw. Suddenly, he paced around and glared at his mum.

“Don’t walk like a stupid pig! Do you know how to walk? I have been waiting for you for so long! ”He shouted at his mum. At that moment, I was very angry and strongly believed that the boy was so naughty and disrespectful that he showed his emotions with no restraint and did whatever he likes without regard for consequences. Based on the above case, the correspondence bias leads me to explain the boy’s behavior by ignoring the influence of situation on behavior. For example, actually he is a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, so he cannot be patient and always dash around.

However, we tend to emphasize the dispositional attribution that the boy is so naughty and disrespectful. Apparently, we tend to overestimate internal factors and underestimate external factors when explaining others’ behavior. After understanding the concept of fundamental attribution error, I have an enquiry related to it. Is there an error too when we explain our own behaviors? In order to find out the answer of it, I do some researches on it. Afterwards, I found out that the concept of actor-observer bias which is proposed by E. E. Jones and R.E. Nisbett in 1971 gives a clearer picture on the error of explaining our own and others’ behaviors. It states that we as an actor are more likely to attribute our own actions to the particular situation than to a generalization about our personality while the reverse asymmetry held for people being an observer and explaining others’ behaviors. Nevertheless, I have doubts about both the fundamental attribution error and the actor-observer bias. In my opinion, I think that both of the ideas only firmly established when describing negative events.

For instance, on the one hand, as an actor, when we get bad result on an exam, we usually attribute the reason to the difficult exam (situational). On the other hand, as an observer, when our friends get bad academic result, we usually attribute the reason to his or her lazy character (dispositional). If the event is positive, the reverse error occurs. With the same example but with the condition that both we and our friends get high marks in the exam, we will attribute the reason to hard-working (dispositional) and easy exam (situational) to explain behaviors respectively.

Malle (2006) agrees that a reverse asymmetry held for positive events after conducting a mental-analysis. He states that the discrepancy may indicate a self-serving pattern in attribution that we attribute success to internal factors and failure to external factors. Therefore, I believe that we are explaining others’ by using both the self-serving bias and fundamental attribution error. Overall, the lessons build up my foundation for the psychological concepts and theories and we need to explore the psychological world by ourselves in order to find out more details, conflicts about and relationships between different ideas.

For instance, in order to finish this reflective journal, I used Google scholar to search about the actor-observer bias and the criticisms about it that I did not learn on the book and in lessons. By experiencing the searching process, I have deeper understanding on it and it strongly impresses on my memory. The process also enhances my analysis skill, to determine which sources are useful and which sources are not related to my topic. Therefore, I enjoy the process of exploring the psychological knowledge by ourselves.

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