Fundamental Attribution Error
Our tendency to perceive other people’s behavior as a reflection of their personality, rather than attribute those behaviors to situational or environmental conditions, is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error.
For example, the man who cut us off in traffic did so because he is rude, not because he may have been on the way to the emergency room after learning his daughter was in a car accident. It’s a pitfall we should be wary of — we often find ourselves justifying our own behavior based on our own circumstances while judging others’ actions based solely on their personality.
Succumbing to the Fundamental Attribution Error can sometimes reinforce a positive opinion of someone, but more often than not, it only reinforces negative opinions of those around us. To combat this bias, think of an iceberg; we’re only seeing what’s above the water, yet a multitude of contributing factors surrounding our behavior are lurking below the surface.