Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error Page: 16
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The previously discussed studies illuminated the power of the situation, or context that
surrounded the surprising observed behaviors. The FAE is also committed in contexts with less
salient features than authority figures and group influence. Tal-Or and Papirman (2007) found
that the FAE affects people's perceptions of the actors who play fictional characters; people were
most likely to assume that the characters played by actors were expressions of the actor's
personality, even when presented with the actor playing multiple characters. In the case of
multiple characters, people attributed character-traits of the last performance seen to the actor.
The context within which the Tal-Or and Papirman (2007) study occurred was the only context
the participants had to judge the person by. Despite knowing that the person was portraying
someone else, participants used their limited exposure to the person to explain the person's
personality traits, rather than recognizing the situation. The element of explanation is an
important related aspect to understanding why people so commonly commit the FAE.
Human beings are reinforced for making sense of the world around them. Just as the
verbal community asks the individual "why" he behaves in a particular way, so too, the
individual asks the same questions of other persons' behaviors. When it comes to their own
behavior, they have an entire lifetime of experience within which to contextualize the power the
situation has on their own behavior. There are instances when the answer to "Why did you do
that?" is related to specific contingencies in the environment. The child asked, "Why did you not
bring back the change from your lunch money?" who responds, "Because the bully took it," is
reinforced for verbal behavior pointing to the role of the situation with understanding by the
parent. In contrast, such as when research participants watch short video clips or we see other
people behave, we often have little environmental data with which to contextualize why they
behave the way they do (Storms, 1973). This tendency is known as the actor-observer bias. The
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Schmalz, Jonathan. Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error, thesis, December 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc103389/m1/22/: accessed March 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .