Ultimate Attribution Error

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People have the tendency to attribute positive acts by known individuals to their character and negative acts to their situation, while doing the reverse for their adversaries.

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A study conducted in the year 1976 by B. L. Duncan, found that ‘white’ students were more likely to interpret a shove as violent and more likely to explain it disproportionately when the shove came from a ‘black’ person as opposed to a ‘white’ person. Other similar Ultimate Attribution Errors plague our lives.

We do not understand acts and events in their unique context. Instead, we embed them in our larger biased understanding and relationships with the individuals associated with the act. By doing so, we arbitrarily associate positive acts to our allies, and negative situations to our opponents. Therefore, Ultimate Attribution Error leads to cognitive failure on two levels. First, we are unable to clearly and objectively understand the given event, and second, it strengthens and reinforces are existing biased understanding. It prevents us from recognizing a fake friend and supportive opponent.

Just like in the case of individuals, Ultimate Attribution Error also functions at group levels. It attributes negative out-group preju- dice, and positive in-group behaviour. This leads to negative group stereotyping—cunning Jews, conservative Christians and violent Muslims.

To avoid the Ultimate Attribution Errors, think beyond the indi- vidual or the group and look at the event or situation objectively. It will not only give you a much clearer understanding of the event but also give you opportunities for forging new relationships and abandoning redundant lies.
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