Understanding and Working with Blame

Have you ever had someone blame you for something over which you had absolutely no control? If you’ve ever been late to a meeting, been framed by a sibling growing up, or otherwise haven’t lived under a rock your entire life, you know what I’m talking about. Why do people do this? Situations like these are due to a powerful psychological phenomenon called the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), and it pops up all the time in everyday life. While the FAE entails many things, the salient point here is that it describes human beings’ tendency to assume that someone’s behaviour – especially when we disagree with or are negatively affected by that behaviour – is due to that person’s personality or disposition, and not due to external factors or situations beyond their control. For example, say you’re late for a first date and the other person assumes that your tardiness is because you just don’t care enough, or because you lack punctuality. Further imagine that, in reality, you got stuck behind a huge accident on the freeway – you had absolutely no control over the situation – and your cell phone died unexpectedly so you couldn’t call.

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