Tag Archives: Personality

Attribution Biases

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

head clouds_250pxHuman behavior can be understood as issuing from “internal” factors or personal characteristics–such as motives, intentions, or personality traits–and from “external” factors–such as the physical or social environment and other factors deemed out of one’s personal control. Self-serving creatures that we are, we tend to attribute our own successes to our intelligence, knowledge, skill, perseverance, and other positive personal traits. Our failures are blamed on bad luck, sabotage by others, a lost lucky charm, and other such things. These attribution biases are referred to as the dispositional attribution bias and the situational attribution bias. They are applied in reverse when we try to explain the actions of others. Others succeed because they’re lucky or have connections and they fail because they’re stupid, wicked, or lazy.

We may tend to attribute the behaviors of others to their intentions because it is cognitively easier to do so. We often have no idea about the situational factors that might influence another person or cause them to do what they do. We can usually easily imagine, however, a personal motive or personality trait that could account for most human actions. We usually have little difficulty in seeing when situational factors are at play in affecting our own behavior. In fact, people tend to over-emphasize the role of the situation in their own behaviors and under-emphasize the role of their own personal motives or personality traits. Social psychologists refer to this tendency as the actor-observer bias.
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One lesson here is that we should be careful when interpreting the behavior of others. What might appear to be laziness, dishonesty, or stupidity might be better explained by situational factors of which we are ignorant. Another lesson is that we might be giving ourselves more credit for our actions than we deserve. The situation may have driven us more than we admit. Maybe we “just did what anybody would do in that situation” or maybe we were just lucky. We may want to follow the classical Greek maxim “know thyself,” but modern neuroscience has awakened us to the fact that much of our thinking goes on at the unconscious level and we often don’t know what is really motivating us to do what we do or think what we think.

Something similar to the self-serving attribution of positive traits to explain our own behavior and negative traits to explain the behavior of others occurs with regard to beliefs.

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Narcissistic People & the Lost Art of Conversation

This is so apropo given the upcoming holiday conversations😉
by Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

Most people are narcissistic.

I’m not using that word in the clinical diagnosistic way, nor in the everyday sense of vain or conceited. What I mean is that most people are almost exclusively focused upon themselves, their personal interests and their own emotional needs for attention. A certain amount of preoccupation with oneself is normal and healthy; it becomes a problem when you’re not truly interested in other people or ideas and only want to talk about yourself.

Here’s a fairly common experience for me: I’m at a party or social gathering, speaking to someone I’ve just met, or an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a long while. I’m asking questions, inquiring about the person’s background or catching up since we last met. Fifteen, twenty minutes pass…we’re still talking about the other person. I get the feeling that I could be anyone; I’m just a receptacle, a mirror or an audience. I provide needed attention to the other person; he or she has no interest in getting to know the man who’s listening.

As a therapist (by temperament as well as profession), I’m a good listener and adept at drawing people out. As a student of human nature, I’m genuinely curious and, for the most part, fascinated by the variety of people I meet. Sometimes I feel lonely, though. I used to be surprised and disappointed that the person I’d just met didn’t want to get to know me. Now I expect a lot less. Lack of genuine interest in others—that’s what I mean when I say I find most people to be narcissistic.

Even with friends, conversation tends to mean waiting your turn to launch into your own story, waiting for the gap or the conversational trigger that will make the transition over to you seem more or less natural. With some truly narcissistic people, the transition seems forced—they’ll use any excuse to change the subject. It can even seem funny if you look at it from the right point of view, although painful when you recognize the reasons for that kind of behavior.


With the holidays upon us, where parties and family gatherings are on the calendar, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to watch yourself and others at work. Is the conversation of the type I described? Are family and friends just waiting for their own turn to be the center of attention? Does one person tend to dominate? How about you? Do you ask questions? Do you take an interest in other people?

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Thoughts of death may be associated with a good life

via Examiner.com

There has been a tendency to take the position that thoughts of death are associated with depression and associated negative health consequences. However, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies thinking about death can actually be a good thing. The Society for Personality and Social Psychology has discussed this topic in the article “How Thinking About Death Can Lead to a Good Life.”

Thoughts about death can actually be a good thing which can help us re-prioritize our goals and values. It appears that even non-conscious thinking about death, such as walking by a cemetery, could prompt positive changes and promote the helping of others. Past research generally suggests that thinking about death is destructive and dangerous and sets off everything from prejudice and greed to violence. These studies which have been related to terror management theory (TMT) have rarely explored the potential benefits of being aware of death.

Keep Reading: Thoughts of death may be associated with a good life – National health | Examiner.com.

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