The fundamental attribution error is a lot of fun to keep in mind while listening to the American presidential candidates during this scary primary season. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this particular election is worrying people all over the world, for a wide variety of reasons. Enough said about that, actually.
When a person says, “My opponent is a bozo–just look at how he slipped on that banana that one time,” the speaker is using the fundamental attribution error. Slipping on a banana might mean that the candidate in question was just busy texting on his phone, or distracted by her hectic schedule. It does not clearly mean that the person is of careless character or is intrinsically clown-like in their very nature.
People routinely make this error every day. When a person walking in front of you neglects to hold a door, do you think, “What a jerk.”? Conversely, when someone insists that you get ahead of them in line, does that make them a saintly specimen?
We all spend some amount of time in an absent-minded state when we might overlook another person, or a banana peel. The reasons we behave in a certain way may be a lot simpler than being a complete and total creep to the core.
Some actions are considered inexcusable, and you may determine what is too much or too far for a person to be redeemed or forgiven. Or not. Maybe the more important question is what their entire life pattern shows you.
Let’s look at a completely different example and consider Kevin Bacon, the actor. He used to be one of the most reliable choices for entertainment dollars. He ultimately made excellent choices of projects for decades. Only when his finances were ruined in a Ponzi scheme did he start getting involved in total crap like The Following. Does that make him a careless, money-grubbing character? Of course not!!
Oh wait. He did make that Hollow Man film.
What an asshole!!
Anyway, please be careful, my little voters. Just because someone has habitually used folksy sayings or drove off a bridge and drowned a local gal or got kissed by a pope, that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know to decide on their character.
In politics I think you can start from the belief that they are all assholes and let them prove otherwise with a long career of being a decent human.
[Okay. That took a turn. Just don’t watch Hollow Man. There’s much better Bacon. Seriously.]