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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 09:35 AM
Original message
Fundamental Attribution Errors
The upcoming election in MA appears to be the source of some debate on DU:GD. Much of the debate strikes me as being of some very real value for example, my good friend David Z posted an outstanding essay that outlined his beliefs on what the status of that election means for the Democratic Party at the state and national levels. There are numerous equally valuable posts on that thread, that take the opposite position from David. This is, in my opinion, the value of this political discussion forum.

There are also a number of OP/threads that reflect a different level of understanding of both the dynamics of the MA election, and of what it means for our party. My goal today is not to engage in finger-pointing, nor to take sides in these debates. I think that there are plenty of solid points being made by those who believe in always supporting democratic candidates, and those who are more comfortable in supporting those democratic candidates who most closely reflect their values. I trust everyone to make up their own mind who they will donate their money to, which campaigns they will volunteer time for, and what lever they will press when they are inside of a voting booth.

Rather, I would like to briefly discuss a dynamic that I suspect plays a major factor in many of the more emotional, less productive arguments that continue to repeat themselves on these threads. We saw these same things in previous elections, including the 2008 democratic primaries. We are likely to endure the same type of thing in the future. Yet, if we are willing to show the same level of respect for those with opposing values and views, as we would like shown for our own, we could definitely reduce the amount of nonsense and unproductive tension that we find here today.

There is a pretty basic theory, known as Fundamental Attribution Error, that I submit plays a large role in promoting the road blocks that hinder rational discussion here. Many D.U.ers are no doubt familiar with this concept, and likely recognize it. There are other names for it, as well. And probably those here who are not familiar with it yet, will recognize the role it has played in disputes with those in their lives.

A simple way to illustrate it is: If I am driving down a slippery road and end up in a ditch, it was because of weather conditions; if you were driving down that same road and went into the ditch, it was because you were driving too fast, and not paying close enough attention to the weather conditions. Darned you!

It is human nature to be selective in attributing motives and responsibility, for better or for worse, to ourselves, to those who we agree with, and to those we disagree with. We are likewise selective in our application of current weather conditions, be they on this forum, in MA, or on the national level.

It is safe to say that the Bush-Cheney administration drove the nation into the ditch indeed, a gutter that represents a cesspool of republican muck and mire and that we worked to pull our vehicle out in the 2008 elections. We are on the road again. Some people think we are heading in the right direction, and some do not. Some people think we are being driven as safely as possible, under the present conditions, while others do not. Discussing and debating these issues is fine. But we should take care when attributing the best of motivations to ourselves, and the worst to those who disagree with us.

H2O Man
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Little Star Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 09:45 AM
Response to Original message
1. k&r Its easy to only see from our own view point.
Edited on Sun Jan-17-10 09:45 AM by Little Star
I think we are all guilty at one time or another of hindering rational discussion here and elsewhere.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 09:44 PM
Response to Reply #1
12. Absolutely.
I'm as guilty of it as anyone on this forum. Maybe more so, as I should know better. Still, even in the case of a person as dense as me, today -- now -- presents a new opportunity to try to do better.
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mmonk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 09:47 AM
Response to Original message
2. It is essentially part of human nature.
It boils down to the attitude that if one disagrees with me, then it must mean whatever I decide to attribute it to. It doesn't facilitate further useful discussion and shuts off the possibility that someone can be influenced by an opinion you may offer. Recommended.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 09:46 PM
Response to Reply #2
13. Right.
It is definitely human nature. But it isn't the only option, just a dead-end fork off the road to achieving one's human potential. And that humanity, as you accurately note, creates the potential to influence others.

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blogslut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 09:55 AM
Response to Original message
3. My mother once got a traffic citation
She was driving on ice and the car head of her stopped short and my mother was unable to stop in time to avoid impact. The accident was minor and the ice was very bad that day. The officer told her that according to the law, because my mother was driving in a manner that rendered her unable to control her vehicle, she was liable.

From my perspective, in regard to your road/ditch analogy, this is what I believe our current administration and our party is doing - driving in an extra-cautious manner because the road is severely treacherous.
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dave29 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 10:07 AM
Response to Original message
4. with all due respect. outstanding essays rarely include the prhase
"don't shit all over your supporters"
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 12:11 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. It very well might be
true that outstanding essays rarely include that phrase. Of course, that is based upon several factors, including the relative few essays that stand out.

The phrase may be offensive, even insulting, in many contexts. However, in the case in point, I think it was intended to express the sincere outrage the author is experiencing. Expressing outrage rarely can be accomplished without the use of words that some people are going to disagree with.

I know that it is possible to place value on the fact that different people have -- and express -- their feelings in beliefs in such a manner. Thus, I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with part or all of my OP.
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HughMoran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 01:45 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. "sucking up to ... while throwing the Leftist, activists under the bus "
The entire thread was based on this outrageous strawman argument - I'm quite disappointed that you think a thread laced with exaggeration after exaggeration was even remotely useful. It did nothing more than harden people's positions on either side. There was no fundamental error in analyzing that screed - it simply served to drive the wedge in deeper here - as I said, I'm very disappointed that you thought is was worthy of praise.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 09:42 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. Respectfully disagree.
I don't believe for a second that it was based upon a "strawman argument." I think it represents the sincere thoughts and feelings of a significant number of DUers. Again, I also have expressed respect for many of those DUers who expressed opinions that were clearly in opposition to that OP. Hence, I know -- beyond question -- that the OP & thread do not represent any serious wedge. They do illustrate a divide that is already here, and which is very real. We can discuss and debate it with the respect and seriousness it deserves, or we can instead resort to the lower levels of hostility that are going to drive that wedge deeper.

I'm not disappointed in anyone for what they honestly feel. I humbly ask others to work towards attaining the level of maturity and open-mindedness that is required for the grass roots to affect meaningful change in our society.

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Me. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 11:26 AM
Response to Original message
5. Disappointment Revs The Discussion Up
There is a sense of betrayal that fuels the fire of discussion, that after a monumental effort we are left with a variation of more of the same. However, what I think needs to be kept in mind is that we don't know what we don't know. The book Game Changer makes that clear. There is a lot in there we guessed at or knew long ago, like what a dodo Palin is or that McCain is totally ineffectual. But there were surprises too. Like the party leaders saying one thing to Hillary's face and another behind her back, or that her staff knew it was over after Iowa though they couldn't bring themselves to face it.
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HughMoran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 11:36 AM
Response to Original message
6. I agree with you assessment, however I think some basic assumptions are not perceived as skewed
Edited on Sun Jan-17-10 11:44 AM by HughMoran
in the minds of many who look through their political prism glasses. If the arguments are ridiculous on their face, what difference does it make what the motivation behind them is? If, after repeated corrections to obviously flawed arguments, certain posters insist on re-posting the same tired strawmen arguments and ad hominem assaults on those who would disagree - why would anybody assume that their motivations are anything but dishonest?


In other words,'re saying don't assume that people who's arguments seem insane to you are bad people or have poor motivations behind them.

...I'm saying - don't assume there aren't people with bad motivations here! When levels of disagreement are high, it can be difficult to differentiate between the angry and the actual trolls.
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TexasObserver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 11:48 AM
Response to Original message
7. Nothing but net.
The problem with such thoughtful posts is simple. Those who need it most are least likely to read it in its entirety, and likely incapable of seeing in their own actions the condition described in the post.

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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 02:13 PM
Response to Original message
10. K&R
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