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[ # ] Counter-Intuitivity (Pt 3)
August 30th, 2008 under Uncategorized

Do you ever think there must be a word or phrase for that concept? You know, like vituperation or some other word that’s difficult to pronounce or spell? Like, what do you call it when you observe things for yourself and then use that as a bias and infer things of other people? Oh that’s right. It’s called the Fundamental attribution error:

Subjects listened to pro- and anti-Fidel Castro speeches. Subjects were asked to rate the pro-Castro attitudes of the speakers. When the subjects believed that the speakers freely chose the positions they took (for or against Castro), they naturally rated the people who spoke in favor of Castro as having a more positive attitude toward Castro. However, contradicting Jones and Harris’ initial hypothesis, when the subjects were told that the speaker’s positions were determined by a coin toss, they still rated speakers who spoke in favor of Castro as having, on average, a more positive attitude towards Castro than those who spoke against him. In other words, the subjects were unable to see the speakers as mere debaters coldly performing a task chosen for them by circumstance; they could not refrain from attributing some disposition of sincerity to the speakers.

So what am I trying to say here? Isn’t it obvious? Don’t jump to conclusions! Holding on to outdated information like they were your pets in a tornado is about as useful as holding on to your pets in a tornado. And yet, people still do it! The economist, John Maynard Keynes, apparently said when he was accused of inconsistency,

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

It seems obvious to me that as your gain more information, your views change. I would hate it if I were to meet the me of 5 years ago and I still had the same opinions. As much as it pains me to admit, many people would jump at the opportunity to support me when I say, “I don’t know everything.” And I have a feeling that the same thing applies to you.

Read the Comments

[ # 49 ] Comment from SJN [1 September, 2008, 14:25]

So it would probably be fair to say that none of us are the people we were 5 years ago, therefore it must surely be unfair to judge and approach relationships or interactions with anyone based on the people you knew them to be in the past?

The problem I guess is working out at which point you no longer take a past fault into account. An extreme example: An issue from yesterday would certainly have an effect on how you interact with someone but something from their childhood not. Where do you draw the line? And is the line in different places for varying issues?


[ # 50 ] Comment from JohnDoe [1 September, 2008, 20:03]

“So it would probably be fair to say that none of us are the people we were 5 years ago”

Not really. With some people, it feels like they never change. But that doesn’t mean you should put up with them or write them off. I think it would be pretty unfair to dismiss someone after one encounter (even though sometimes I have to really fight the urge to do so).

Not sure about past faults though. Again, whatever you do, I would think your actions have to be considered.

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