Two points of interest (to me)

1. High-achieving low-income students go to college at about the same rate as low-achieving high-income students (according to a new report that looks at National Education Longitudinal Study data). Which makes total sense when I think about all the dumb-asses at my high school that trotted off to [insert elite college here]. Feel free to comment about grade inflation and whatnot at high-poverty schools—you line ’em up, I’ll knock ’em down.

College-going rates

2. The Fundamental (except not really) Attribution Error. (Amy could probably tell you all about this since it’s a psych thing.) We talked about it briefly today in my Research Design class. Basically, people have a tendency to over-attribute people’s actions to their character.

For example, if a man steals a loaf of bread, they are more likely to say it’s because he’s dishonest or corrupt, and less likely to say it’s because of the situation he was in.

When (American) psychologists first discovered this, they named it the Fundamental Attribution Error. Later they tested for this in other countries and found out that—whoops—it’s actually mainly an American thing. In many Asian countries, they over-attribute people’s actions to their situations.

Just an interesting little insight into our national character.

Off to Texas for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Lots of family and friend bonding.

4 thoughts on “Two points of interest (to me)

  1. i tend to call the f.a.e. “self-serving bias.” i think it’s most common in childhood, dips in adulthood, and then peaks again in middle- to old-age, but i’m pretty exhausted and might not be thinking straight about it. i think that (in childhood, at least) it’s partly related to developmentally linked deficits in general cognitive abilities, such as perspective taking. there’s a piagetian test called a moral reasoning task that deals with questions like the one above (“would it ever be right for the man to steal the bread?”).

    also, for children, it’s highly adaptive. they’re in a situation where they need to try lots of new things and fail at most of them the first (and second, and third) time around. too readily attributing that to something negative about themselves can lead to depression and lack of effort. conversely, if they fail to make the appropriate cognitive shift and engage in perspective taking as they develop higher-level thinking skills, it then becomes maladaptive.

    the literature on it is mixed. and you’re right, it is a culturally linked phenomena, although i think it’s spread across all individualistic (as opposed to collectivist) societies, not just the u.s.a. there’s a real lack of studies dealing with populations other than white college students, as i’m sure you know.

  2. I do think, but (just ignorantly speculating now) I’d say that’s more about our perceptions of gender than the fundamental attribution error. Why won’t that welfare mother get a job—she can’t afford childcare, or she’s lazy?

    Thanks for the more nuanced tutorial, Amy (or Ames, as I’ve started to call you in my head). We’ll miss you this weekend.

  3. no problem. and although our perception of gender would probably influence the conclusions we drew, like leslie said, we would still probably make a character-based attribution with a feminine twist – she had to because of something intrinsic about her (lazy).

    people actually call me Ames. that’s totally acceptable. and i’ll miss you guys, too; eat lots of barbeque for me. and breakfast tacos. and amy’s ice cream. and…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *