Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The “correspondence bias” (also called the “fundamental attribution error”) means we typically think other people’s behaviors are the result of personality flaws, but when we do the same thing we attribute it to circumstances beyond our control. This results in a bias to view our shortcomings as easily explainable by circumstances, but to criticize other people’s shortcomings as a result of their personality flaws.
For instance if a person shows up late for a meeting, we tend to think, “They should’ve planned ahead better.” We might even (regrettably) say that. But when we are late for a meeting ourselves, we often attribute it to circumstances beyond our control. We might think, “The traffic was crazy tonight. I can’t believe it didn’t take longer to get here.”
The result is that we typically take a more negative view of others’ actions, than we do of our own actions in the same circumstances. Correspondingly, we have a more positive view of our actions than we do of others’ actions.
This error results from a lack of compassion and a seeing things from other people’s perspectives. It is important for Christians to recognize our fundamental propensity to attribute others’ actions to personality flaws and our shortcomings to circumstances beyond our control.
For more information read this research about the corresponded bias by Dr.s Gilbert and Malone at the University of Texas at Austin.
The Correspondence Bias
Daniel T. Gilbert and Patrick S. Malone University of Texas at Austin
Abstract: The correspondence bias is the tendency to draw inferences about a person’s unique and enduring dispositions from behaviors that can be entirely explained by the situations in which they occur. Although this tendency is one of the most fundamental phenomena in social psychology, its causes and consequences remain poorly understood. This article sketches an intellectual history of the correspondence bias as an evolving problem in social psychology, describes 4 mechanisms (lack of awareness, unrealistic expectations, inflated categorizations, and incomplete corrections) that produce distinct forms of correspondence bias, and discusses how the consequences of correspon- dence-biased inferences may perpetuate such inferences.