In the world we see differences between cultures through the lens of our own cultural formation. We are subject to biases against practices we do not observe in our own universe of experience. We have to leave to leave the comfort of our own hubris against people who are culturally different. Alternatively, we can construct a “universal” standard of morality and behavior based on our own, comfortable, standards. We are, in the West, biased against alien standards based on models developed by thousands of years of cultural evolution. – carlos
Something similar to the self-serving attribution of positive traits to explain our own behavior and negative traits to explain the behavior of others occurs with regard to beliefs. Michael Shermer and Frank Sulloway identified a kind of attribution error while doing a survey on why people believe in a god. They found that most people attributed their own belief in a god to rational inference or personal experience (“the universe is so well designed,” “I experience god daily”) while the majority attributed the belief of others to emotional need (“the belief comforts them,” “believing makes it easier to face death”). The intellectual attribution bias finds a rational basis for one’s own beliefs, while the emotional attribution bias finds an emotional basis for the beliefs of others. There is also an implicit value judgment here: having a rational motive is superior to having an emotional one.
Shermer (2011) claims these biases are also found in political beliefs. On gun control, for example, both liberals and conservatives think their own positions are rationally based. Liberals see their opponents’ beliefs as due to their heartlessness and emotional attachment to weapons; conservatives see liberals’ beliefs as due to their bleeding heart softheadedness. For example: Only sane people think a person does not need a hidden weapon. Only people who have low self esteem of themselves or need something to make them feel grown up need to hide his/her weapon. And the reply: Why is it non-gunners all seem to feel that carrying a gun is an ego booster or an act only a paranoid person would do? Or, liberals cry for gun control every time somebody’s killed with a gun; their gut tells them gun control will make the world a safer place. Right. And pigs can fly.
Edward E. Jones and Victor Harris (1967), building on the work of Austrian psychologist Fritz Heider (1958), called the tendency of people to attribute another person’s behavior to personal characteristics–even when the person’s behavior is most likely the result of situational demand–correspondence bias. Social psychologistLee Ross coined the expression “fundamental attribution error” to describe the tendency to see the behavior of others in terms of personal characteristics rather than considering that the situation they are in may have been more significant in determining their actions.
Ross is also known for his work with Robert Vallone and Mark Lepper and their discovery that people with strong biases toward an issue perceive media coverage as biased against their opinions even when the bias cannot be attributed to bias in the media report. They discovered this by presenting the same news reports to people with strong, but opposing, biases and finding that both sides considered the media reports biased against their side and biased in favor of the other side. They called this the hostile media effect. Something similar happens in team sporting events: fans for both teams see referee bias against their side and in favor of the other side. We might call this the hostile referee effect.
Heider, Fritz. 1958. The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. Wiley.
Jones, Edward E. and Victor A. Harris. 1967. The Attribution of Attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 3, 1-24.