As we’ve been discussing, examples of the fundamental attribution error can be seen in every aspect of our lives. This includes the ever present arena of reality television. Despite the claims of many people that reality TV shows are “mind-numbing” entertainment, they are actually a great place to see many social psychological principals in action!
We’re going to watch a short clip from an episode of the reality show, Big Brother. Take note of attributions (explanations) people give for their own behavior and the behavior of others. Answer the following questions, then discuss with a partner. After about 5 minutes or so, we will discuss the examples of the fundamental attribution error in the clip together as a class.
1. What attributions did people give for their own behavior? Do you “buy” these explanations?
2. What attributions did people give for the behaviors of others in the house? Why might they have made these attributions? Do you agree with these explanations?
3. Consider the areas of consistency, distinctiveness, and consensus in regards to the attributions you noticed for question 2. What questions could the people in the house have considered before making their judgments of each other? Realistically, do they have access to this additional information?
4. What could be the results or implications of the occurrence of the fundamental attribution error in this setting? What would change if the additional information led the people in the house to focus more on situational explanations for the behavior of others?