Social scientists have discovered something fundamental about the way we explain the behavior of others. When other people’s behavior causes us harm, we tend to assume that they intended to hurt us. And when we seethem harmed, our first instinct is to blame the victim.Let’s move the problem closer to home. If our husband’s late arrival from work prevents us from joining our long-scheduled girls night out,we reflexively blame his delay on envy, selfishness or anger. Our spouse, on the other hand, will assume just the opposite – that his late arrival has nothing whatsoever to do with bad faith or ill intention, but to external factors beyond his control – traffic in Los Angeles, a hurricane warning in Biloxi or a blizzard in New York City.
Though both spouses might be partially right, the perceived wrong-doer will always mistake his behavior as being more influenced by circumstance than intent and the victim will always exaggerate the degree to which the perpetrator’s behavior is motivated by ill-will. If it’s his fault, we have some hope that it will not happen again because we can punish him (sulking works) for being late.
If we see people suffering as the result of a cataclysmic natural disaster, we protect our own peace of mind by ascribing their misfortune to something they did wrong. It won’t happen here in California, we think, even though we too live on the Pacific ring of fire, because they brought it on themselves.
It can’t happen here.
Sent from Mobile