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What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

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Podcast Episodes

What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

268: You Are Many Peoples’ “Them” – Fundamental Attribution Error

Today’s episode is all about fundamental attribution error. Why is this the Tuesday Refresh? Well, when contributing editor to the Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo, is on the show this coming Friday to discuss her book Getting Along: How to Work With Anyone (Even Difficult People) we specifically talk about this concept in detail. Also, upon review, this episode first aired on March 20, 2020…something tells me it hasn’t gotten as many listens as it deserves – ha! It is so prevalent in every interaction at work, that this all made it an easy choice for being today’s episode.

The episode explains what fundamental attribution error is and how you experience it every single day at work and in your personal life. In essence, it is when we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt…but don’t give that same benefit to others.

This happens because we humans are very tribal by nature. Our brains are constantly sorting people into “us” and “them” categories. When we have people in the “us” world (yourself, your significant other, your family, your best friend, or favorite colleague) they get treated differently than those in a “them” category (people who don’t look or sound like you, people in a different department that is always at odds with your own, that person who made you feel dumb at the meeting six years ago). Even if you don’t want it to be a factor, it is. Our brains do this, and it is important to understand the bias and how it impacts our behavior (and those around us) so we can properly leverage it — because avoiding it doesn’t work.

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IN A RUSH?

HERE'S A 2 MINUTE TIP.

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SHOW NOTES:

  • [00:40] Today’s episode is all about fundamental attribution error. The episode will get into more detail on what fundamental attribution error is and how you experience it every single day at work and in your personal life.
  • [02:28] As an interesting side note, I was looking back to share when this episode first aired as I always like to make a note of it and the release date was March 20, 2020. I couldn’t help but laugh as that date had a pretty visceral reaction for me. I’m guessing it might have for you too.
  • [03:48] I like to call fundamental attribution error the “Pot / Kettle Phenomenon.” When you use a different criteria to think about yourself and how you are acting than you use to think about and judge others…it is fundamental attribution error. 
  • [04:28] A classic example is when driving. How do you feel about someone who cuts you off in traffic and how do you feel about yourself when you cut someone else off in traffic? When thinking about yourself, you know this is a one-time thing and give yourself the benefit of the doubt (while that other person is labeled a “jerk”). 
  • [06:02] We also see this with movies in who is labeled good or bad. The best example is the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.  
  • [09:00] Your brain is biased to think of you as different and better than others, especially people that are not like you. 
  • [09:30] You don’t have to let that immediate reaction form a lasting impression of someone else. You can put in a little effort once you understand the brain process. This can make all those relationships at work and in your personal life a little more pleasant. 
  • [11:12] The big difference between the way we see others and how we see ourselves is the intrinsic story compared to the extrinsic story. Intrinsic is internal and extrinsic is external. 
  • [12:48] In general, we are much more likely to say that others’ internal attributes or personalities led to their bad behavior, while we see ours as being from external situational circumstances. 
  • [13:44] Four ways to change the ways you react to others:
    1. Decide you want to work on this and understand why it is important to you.
    2. Choose an initial group or person to start the process with.
    3. Reframe your “in” group.
    4. Consciously adjust to extrinsic attributes for 30 days or a decent number of total interactions and then move to the next group. 
  • [15:42] It is also important to remember that fixing your mindset on the way you think about others is about your choice. You can’t change them or their responses to situations. 
  • [17:35] If you know what makes you think that way and who’s in the “in” group and the “out” group you can look to expand that “in” group so you can be less biased overall. 
  • [18:29] When you broaden the circle of the “in” crowd you start to see everyone in a better light. While you might not notice it until you start to open up, it can greatly impact all of your working relationships. 
  • [21:00] Conquering your fundamental attribution error to have better relationships with a department means every time you have a negative response you need to check in with yourself and remember they are part of your “in” group. Then think of something positive about them to replace the negative feeling you had initially.  
  • [22:11] When you force yourself to look deeper for positives, it can help round them out and build that intrinsic story. 
  • [23:00] The easiest way to see someone as your “in” group is to find ways you are similar.
  • [24:08] I gave the tip of starting with one group to begin with to get the ball rolling but once that snowball starts do what you can to add on and add on. 
  • [25:10] It is important to look at your own behavior the way others do as well.  Try to stop writing an extrinsic story for why it is okay. 
  • [26:41] When you understand how your brain is sorting other people and treating them differently and how you are many other peoples’ “them” it can really help you to adjust your own behavior so you can have better relationships at work and in your personal life.

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