Solving relationship problems -Attribution Bias
Attribution theory and relationships
Solving Relationship Problems. Who is to blame?
Social Psychologists refer to attribution as "the process by which we observe others behaviour and then infer the causes behind it in a relatively systematic way." The cues that we observe are both verbal and non-verbal with the latter often being more important. It is how we make sense of our world. “I am what I think” the famous statement goes. I decide who I am because of the messages that I receive from my world. If someone smiles at me I receive a different message than if that same person frowns at me. We are selective in which messages we take note of and in so doing we protect our feeling about ourselves. If I behave in a certain way and I receive positive messages I increase those behaviors in order to receive more of those messages.
Attribution bias occurs when I ascribe to other people negative motives for their behavior while my negative actions are the result of conditions outside my control. So the couple in a conflict marriage situation will feel that if only their partner will change their negative behavior everything will get better. "It is because of his/her emotional problems that we are so unhappy." My situation that I find myself in is not my fault but the result of factors beyond my control. In this way I make sense of my world and protect my self image (ego).
So the conflict continues and so I am not at fault. “If only he/she will change” puts one into a lose/lose situation because thing are probably not going to change in the way that we would like them to.
Because of this a different mindset has to be developed. I am responsible for my own behavior. How I behave is not dependent on the circumstances that I find myself in but will change my situation. If my behavior is based on a knee jerk response to what happens around me I am in trouble. If I can avoid any negative behavior that hurts others and therefore ultimately myself, then my world will become a better place.
Changing my world has to start with the only person I really have control over and that is me. In counseling we call this 'the change first' principle. But it is so difficult to accept responsibility for my situation. It is much easier to blame the situation on someone else or the circumstances that I find myself in. Sometimes the only way to cope is to run away, but this is usually not the best option.