I’m bringing up Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) again because I have a message for everyone. In the past few days, upon fully understanding FAE by writing it down on this blog had set me thinking. That thinking had then led me to a saddening realization:
Have you ever heard someone of considerable wealth saying something like this: “The poor/minority are poor because they are not helping themselves. They really need to get their shit together.”
Or a person who has a degree claiming that: “those who drop out of schools have low IQ”
And in fact, when slavery was a trend; the slave owners often claim that “the slaves are incapable of functioning on their own” and thus require their “guidance” and for them to keep the slaves alive.
All of the above are prime examples of FAE which are discriminatory justifications.
The rich, the well-educated, and slave owners use this as an excuse to justify not helping the economically disadvantaged, the drop-outs and not emancipate the slaves respectively. But are these justifications well founded? Not really.
The poor remains in the vicious cycle of poverty because they are stigmatized by the rest of the society, putting them in an opportunity-deficient position. This includes racial minority and an extremely pertinent example would be the African-Americans in the U.S.
The drop-outs are usually not intellectually deficient because firstly, education is not a foolproof measurement of intelligence. Secondly, the drop-outs usually have complicated family circumstances that compromise their studies.
The slaves, God, they are not even given the freedom needed to exercise their personal functions so how on earth did the Slave owner’s justification even stand?!
These are justifications based on vested interest and it has deep societal implications. Things can become worse when the victims of such discriminations accept their positions as natural: The blacks in America accept false stereotypes that they are intellectually inferior in school terms, so they drop out and develop criminally inclination; which only serves to reinforce the stereotype.
Stereotypes can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies mainly because of the nocebo effects. It is fundamentally wrong because they are false claims made based on vested interest and FAE. In understanding FAE, I hope you can; just like me recently, rid yourself of unfair stereotypes and exercise empathy instead. So next time when you hear someone wealthy or well-educated, even if it is in the context of a meritocratic society like Singapore, give their excuses to refuse help to the poor or the drop-outs; you know that they are committing FAE and possibly self-justifying their less-than-compassionate actions. Don’t ever be like them; even if you are neither wealthy nor well-educated, because this should be a universal human standard.