Sunday, May 11, 2014

Actor-Observer Bias and First Dates


Something I have been thinking about a lot lately: Actor-observer bias.

Basically the idea behind Actor-observer bias (and I apologize to any Psych majors if I butcher the explanation) is that when you observe someone do something, you are more likely to attribute their actions to their personality. But when you do something, you are more likely to attribute your actions to your circumstances.

For example, if you are driving and someone speeds past you, your first thought is likely to be that they are a rude reckless driver. Whereas if you speed past someone, you are more likely to think its an emergency or you are late and that the circumstance is causing you to drive faster. But it would unlikely for you to think that someone else speeding past you must be really late or have an emergency that is causing them to speed. Ya follow?

Applying this to my life, I think I am single right now because I have been unlucky (aka my circumstances), while others might think I am too picky/like to go after girls who are bonkers (aka my personality).

Where I think this concept is even more powerful: First dates

Think about it, you might not know anything about your date's personality before the date, and one of the main reasons you went on the date is to get to know their personality. So, every little thing you do or your date does, will of course be attributed to your or their personality. She takes a little longer getting ready than I expect = she's high-maintenance, she doesn't get one of my jokes = she has no sense of humor, she trips while walking = she's clumsy or possibly Jennifer Lawrence.  I have a stain on my shirt = I'm a slob, I forget to open her car door once = I'm not a gentleman, I punch the waitress in the face = I'm suddenly a jerk. And all kinds of other ridiculous conclusions.

Not only that, but first dates are often awkward/stressful/high pressure situations (its enough to drive a man to punch his waitress in the face). They actually are a circumstance that could very well make people act differently than their true personalities.

The solution of course would be for everyone to give their date the benefit of the doubt and not jump to conclusions, but let's get real, no one is doing that unless their date is a certified hottie. Certified hotties (or "Smoke Shows" as my roommate lovingly calls them), they get the benefit of the doubt.

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