This article starts off by a man having his wife serve on a jury in a federal case involving conspiracy, racketeering, drug dealing, armed robbery, and extortion. There were seven defendants and one that escaped from police custody. The key government witness was an ex-gang member named Larry who was called "the Canary" by the defendants because he turned informer. For two months Jean, the wife, listened to Larry's testimony and tried to figure out whether his account of the incident was credible or not. A question in her mind was that whether his behavior on the stand was that of pathological liar, a rejected pal seeking revenge, a petty crook who would say anything to save his own skin, or and honest witness dedicated to the truth?
All this falls into Fritz Heider's attribution theory saying that we all tend to rationalize in the same way. Fritz said that the theory of attribution is the process of drawing inferences. This would be seeing a person act and immediately reaching a conclusion that goes beyond mere sensory information. Example: Larry yawns while on the stand. Your immediate conclusive reaction would be "is he bored, afraid, tired, or indifferent". In the article it says that Heider would see us as naïve psychologist bringing common sense to bear on an interpersonal judgment. It also says that we can't help it to make these judgments. This is because we make personality judgments in order to explain otherwise confusing behavior.
Heider says that there's another reason for making causal inferences from behavior. The reason is because we want to know what to expect in the future. He says prediction is a survival skill. Example: Jean comes face-to-face with one of the defendants, in her jury trail, outside a train station. Mildly anxious, she quickly turned aside. Accurate attributions can help us know which people might do us harm.
The article also talks about attribution as... [continues]
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