Archive for the Social Psych Thoughts Category

Today’s Social Psych class and our discussion of heuristics reminded me of the book - The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things. The book has wonderful illustrations of how people fall prey to the availability heuristic in assuming that things like shark attacks and plane crashes are more commonplace than they actually are. The book focuses on the media’s role in our misconceptions. Do you have any unrealistic fears? I am unrealistically afraid of home invasion. I lock every door in the house before I go to bed and keep a hunting knife by my bed… ok I’m only joking about the hunting knife.

“I feel bad for what Mike is going through right now.” This comment from one of Michael Vick’s (former) teammates was interesting to me… perhaps the teammate was simply expressing his support for Vick without really thinking his choice of words. Still - clearly what Michael Vick is “going through” - the public castigation, threat to his future in football etc, is self-imposed (based on the assumption that he is guilty - and he has agreed to plead guilty). So my gut reaction was that we shouldn’t feel sorry for him since it was “his fault.” However, as an instructor of social psychology I frequently discuss the “fundamental attribution error” - the tendency to discount situational influences and overemphasize dispositional causes for behavior… I guess this is the point that I have to say that I do not condone what Michael Vick apparently did but I am more interested in understanding his behavior rather than simply expressing an emotional reaction. What are the “situational” influences that may have impacted Vick? I’m not sure but behavior is complex and not easily explained by labeling someone as evil.

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