Wednesday, July 6, 2011

America the Beautiful

2 Things I learned about western culture today in psychology

Correspondence Bias - is our tendency to view the behaviors of others as due to internal causes. Which basically means that we don't give people the benefit of the doubt. We automatically assume people do the crappy things they do because they're just bad or inconsiderate people.

We talked about road rage and what your first thought is when someone cuts you off on the high way. I know that mine is usually something along the lines of "You freaking idiot reckless driver!" I rarely consider the possibility of extenuating circumstances such as them racing an injured person to the hospital.

Self-Serving Bias is out tendency to attribute positive outcomes to our efforts, while failures are seen as due to influence of others. This basically means that anything good that happens is because of something we did. While anything bad that happens is due to the fault of someone else.Here we talked a lot about politics, and how eager politicians are to find someone to take the blame for any problem attributed to them. Although I'd say this plague of spotlight hogging and blame dodging is far more wide spread than the political arena.

What I found really interesting was that these bias's are specific only to our western culture. My psychology professor explained that the western culture is about SELF preservation, while eastern culture is more about GROUP preservation.

The more I thought about this the more I came to believe in it's truth. Our country was founded on the beliefs that everyone is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Lately it just feels like American's believe they're just plain entitled.Why is it that we've developed a society where it's perfectly normal for each family to have 2-4 cars, or an ipod and cell phone for each family member? What was it that gave us the illusion that we're all entitled to be privileged? There is no constitutional amendment that states "All men have the right to designer clothes, the latest electronics, and elaborate vacations."

Sadly I know I'm constantly guilty of Self-Serving & Correspondence Bias. For almost every example my professor gave my first instinct was a selfish one. But now that I'm aware of it I hope to change it, and can pass on a better example to my 2 crazy kids.


  1. Psychological biases are SO interesting! George Carlin once observed that everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot and everyone who drives faster than you is insane haha.

    Though I would also say your proof is falling for a confirmation bias. These biases are seen all over the world in every culture. They are just part of being human. For example, recently the USA beat north Korea in a soccer match. Instead of admitting that we were the better team, NK made an excuse that its best players had been struck by lightning and couldn't play lol! They also hate us because we are all blood thirsty capitalists who deny the divinity of Kim Jong il.

    You should check out a book called Mistakes were made, but not by me. Or, Don't believe everything you think. Both are all about this stuff. The problem is that we are hard wired to think like this, so it's hard to overcome the biases. But knowing is half the battle!

  2. I've heard that Carlin quote before! I thought it was funny then, and I think it's funny now! I'm glad to know we're not the only ones. I'm going to have to check out those books. The titles alone are reason enough to read them!



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