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Perceiving Our Social World

Although an unbiased and objective reality exists, people constantly interpret it through a mixture of their opinions and standards, and this reality is reflected by several concepts in social psychology today (Myers, 2009). Ironically, the wish to be unprejudiced leads to some preconceptions. Two of the many existing concepts will be explored in this essay: the fundamental attribution error and the actor-observer effect.

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The Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) is defined as the predisposition that people have to overemphasize the significance of character and to underemphasize the prominence of situational aspects when assigning motivations to another individual’s behavior. The error is described as fundamental since it is presumed to be universal and happens through a variety of behaviors. This error only appears when someone is making unintentional attributions concerning someone else’s behavior; the error does appear when an individual makes attributions about his or her behavior. When the topic or situation is of great importance to the individual, he or she is more likely to commit the FAE.

The actor-observer bias is similar to the FAE because it also is related to how people interpret the behavior of other people in terms of internal and external attributions. The actor-observer bias suggests that if individuals are asked to explain the behavior of an actor from the perspective of that actor, they are more likely to refer to situational attributions, whereas if they are asked to explain the same behavior from the viewpoint of an observer, then they are more likely to provide internal attributions. Part of the reason that people give external attributions is that people are more aware of the context and situation surrounding their actions, and they presume that to be true for any individual (Pennington, 2012). This is a challenging concept because as actors, people cannot objectively examine their own actions, so they concentrate their attention on the surroundings as an alternative. As observers, individuals tend to link the behavior of others to that person’s temper, which regularly guides them to mistaken or subjective conclusions. In general, people prefer to point to the circumstances around them as the reason for failure when they do not want to take responsibility when something negative has occurred.

The particular difficulty behind the FAE and the actor-observer bias lies in the mode in which individuals of different cultural orientations view themselves in the environment as their cultural orientation might explain the apparition of diverse cultural stereotypes. Numerous scientists argue that the FAE should be taken into consideration as the propensity to make dispositional and not situational descriptions for conduct. The tricky part is that how we see others is significantly affected by the lens we look through, and more than a few aspects can have an impact on that lens, including our attitudes, recollections, experiences, and personal views.

After a thorough analysis of these two concepts in social psychology, several conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with questioning an individual about why he or she proceeded in a specific manner because such questioning allows one to reach a knowledgeable verdict. Secondly, if an individual’s behavior seems inconsistent, there is a probability that he or she is reacting to an exterior signal. And thirdly, one should remember that attribution helps us understand the world around us.


Myers, D. (2009). Social Psychology. (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Pennington, D. (2012). Social Cognition. (2nd ed.). Florence, KY: Routledge.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Perceiving Our Social World'. 24 December.

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