Updated: Dec 13, 2021
Did you see that mother screaming at her kids in the store? I can’t believe she did that. She’s not a very good mother, is she?!
Did that person just scream at me and honk his horn when he sped past me at the stop light? What a jerk.
Do any of these questions sound remotely familiar to you? Maybe you have had these thoughts yourself, or maybe your significant other actually said them out loud. What we see is usually what we talk about – and what we see are behaviors. So of course our thoughts, words, and own actions are reflective of what is visible rather than what is not visible. What is not visible, are people's cognitions (i.e., thoughts) and affect (i.e., feelings).
We see the mom yelling at her kids in Target, but what we don’t see or know is that she has a newborn at home, is running off of 1 hour of sleep, hasn’t eaten lunch yet, her husband got laid off from his job, and she had asked her kids 3 times to stop hitting each other – and they kept hitting. So she lost it. Can you blame her?
Or maybe the guy that sped off at the stop light is driving as fast as he can to see his mother whose in the hospital.
The point is – we never know why people behave the way they do. We all must know that our behaviors are driven by these underlying aspects of our lives, our hearts, and our souls – the emotions we feel and the ideas we think. And when you think about your own behavior and wonder why you do what you do – look to your thoughts and your feelings. Often times it’s not so much of a surprise after all.
In my next post, I'm going to expand upon this phenomenon a bit. We will discuss what it means to recognize when you make the mistake of the Fundamental Attribution Error.