attribution theory

Believe What You Want; Perceptions, Part Two

Last week, I told you that the sky isn't really blue, due to the fact that it is just the way the air molecules refract sunlight. And explained some of the mental processes our brain goes through when making decisions, specifically decisions about society, our perceptions of social situations as well as precepts of other people's actions and being.

We learned that the human brain has a tendency to autonomously make assumptions based on past experience, as opposed to present evidence. And also, how we link the traits of a person or persons with traits that are descriptively similar while not truly meaning the same thing.

But, we also discovered that every person is different and uses a combination of different processes to formulate opinions. So, this week, we are going to look at alternative functions, as well as summarise the group mentality of perception and truth.

And, explain why the sky is actually blue.


Attribution, for better or worse

Now, we all know that we can be affected by different things at different times. Sometimes, when we're very hot we can become bothered and thus more irritable. Or, when we've had a luck day, we can find ourselves more forgiving, and less inclined to make negative assumptions. This is what we call mood.

But, while we might be able to justify our own actions taking circumstance into respect, can we say that we do the same for others? Attribution theory is the method by which we attribute certain characteristics or opinions of a person's actions based on traits or factors that we perceive, being unable to perceive things in the exact same way to the person/thing we are attempting to understand.

These attributions can be broken down further into what makes two alternative methods of analysing a situation.

The first of these is a Dispositional decision. Basically, where we understand a person's actions through their inherent personality traits. The other being situational, where we have to tendency to perceive things based on the situation the person is in. Now we use a combination of these at any given time, though most of us tend to lean more towards one side depending on who we are, and our past experience with understanding others.

Essentially, we decide subconsciously, 90% of the time, whether we believe in what is known as entity theory, or on the other side of the coin; incremental theory.


Personality vs. Context

If a person makes their decisions/assumptions based on another's entity. It means that this person is of the belief that traits are fixed. Meaning that; a person cannot, and does not, change their personality. Regardless of situational factors. These people tend to lean more towards dispositional decisions. Making out that another person acts the way they do simply because “that's who they are”

On the flip side, another person could believe that people do change. And that their personalities are influenced by their own experience and surroundings. These people tend to put situational factors above personality traits when trying to understand another's actions. So which are you? Do you think people can change, or do you think we are rigid in our disposition? And that people are just who they are. Or, have you already worked out what I'm getting at here?


We like, what we like

Before you answer that, there's something you should bear in mind. Studies carried out on disparate individuals in a controlled clinical setting have proven that statistically human beings inherently resist change. We're not just talking about situational change but also attitudinal. When faced with two opposing viewpoints with no other evidence to go off but a persons own opinion and experience we will welcome the evidence that confirms our own opinion and ignore, or explain away evidence that conflicts with our own notions.

In fact, we may even ignore it if the evidence is overwhelmingly against our already fixed opinion. We will find some situational factor which justifies our previous thoughts in ignorant of the newly stated fact.

Essentially it is our own belief structure which not only determines how we perceive situations, but also, how we perceive others actions in those situations. But I didn't really need to tell you that did I?


True Change

So what do you think; can people change? Or will we resist change to a point of being blatantly wrong, while still confirmed in our belief that we are in fact correct?

Think about your own experience. Think about the people you know, especially the people you are close to. Who are they? What do they believe? Have they changed since you've known them? Or are they inherently the same person who has just learned to adapt to different situations?

There is NO CORRECT ANSWER to this. Sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping for a definitive conclusion over human perception. Because the fact is, perception depends on the person. And no two people are exactly alike, no matter how we may perceive them to be inherently same.

Some people can and do change, while others, submitted to the same experience may merely confirm their original hypotheses and continue on. It doesn't make you a better or worse person, your simply a person. And honestly, what we say we believe, may not actually what we believe in the first place.

People can act in a variety of different ways influenced by the people they are with at that moment. And what a group decides is the truth, to that group is the truth. And our perception Shouldn't be allowed to judge them in the same way they shouldn't judge us.

It is a simple fact, we are all different. No matter how much we may want to be the same, to fit in, and to have others conform to our standards, they can't and we can't. It's so straightforward. Our differences separate u; and divide us into categories. But we shouldn't allow this to effect our opinion of a person to the idea that they are good or bad. We should instead focus on those dividing lines that bring us back together again.


It's All Relative

Ask yourself; why is the sky blue? Why is that the universal truth of the matter? What your feeling is called cognitive dissonance. It is the state of mind we enter when faced with two conflicting ideas, wile simultaneously believing both to be true. The sky is and is not blue.

IN the same way, it is said that time is relative to the object tor person experiencing it, thus so is truth. All truth is relative to the person perceiving it. And thus almost all reality is fluid. I've already outlined how this construct works. But, what does that say of us as people? Do we simply relay truth as it is relative to us, or can we step outside these bounds and see truth for what it really is? Or does truth even exist, is it merely a concept? An ideal by which we may aspire but never truly attain?

As usual, this depends on the person, our perception of truth belongs to us. No one else. And what we want or believe to be true is exceptional to another persons. And like wise their truth should not cloud ours, it should clarify. Because, as is very clear from the way we form these thoughts, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.


Affecting Others

Now, don't take me for a fully-fledged neo-liberal, while I do believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and are entitled to act based on that opinion, regardless of what it may be. I do not believe that anyone's opinion should be taken as far a to negatively effect the life of another, no matter how right you believe yourself to be.

You see, if we inflict pain through our precepts, we are trying to prevent others having theirs. And so we broaden the divide between reconciliation of these ideals. And education on the unviresal truth of the matter at hand. This goes not only to people who act on homophobia/racism/ageism but also people who become violent towards those who harbour these ideas. You are both overreaching with your perceptions. It is not our place to punish people for their opinions, as it is not their place to inflict their opinions on us.

We have to try and understand, because only through understanding, and learning where differences come from as what makes us the same can peace and equality be found.



Our perceptions define who we are, they are created by us, about us, and rarely have a route in how another person actually perceives themselves. We must allow these perceptions to exist, in agreement with our own or not, but likewise we cannot force other people to bend to our ideas. We can merely ask them not to inflict those ideas in times when it does not really effect them, and as we cannot inflict our ideas onto them when the result is not relevant to us.

With this in mind I am to embark on a series I will simply call “Perceptions” keep a look out for these articles as they will be examining both sides of world-encompassing arguments, not looking towards what the truth is, but analysing instead how these arguments are formed, and what the middle-ground for communication of these ideas is.

For, after all, we all sleep under the same sky, whatever colour that sky may be.

image source: Fine Craft Guild