慶應SFC 2011年 環境情報学部 英語 大問1 全文(正答済み)

 If we are asked to describe the personality of our best friend, we say something like he is honest or she is kind. All of us, when it comes to personality, naturally think in terms of absolutes: that a person is a certain way or is not a certain way. However, character isn’t what we think it is; or rather, what we want it to be. It isn’t a stable, easily identifiable set of closely related traits; it only seems that way because of a glitch in the way our brain are organized. The reason we fall into the error of thinking of character as something unified and all-encompassing is that we tend to think in terms of inherent traits and forget the role of situations. According to some social scientists, in doing this, we are deceiving ourselves about the ways humans behave. In fact, psychologists call this tendency the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), which is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people’s behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context. We will always reach for a dispositional explanation for events, as opposed to a contextual explanation. Many experiments have been devised in order to explain this aspect of human decision-making.

 In one experiment, for example, a group of people are told to watch two similarly talented sets of basketball players, the first of whom are shooting baskets in a well-lighted gym and the second of whom are shooting baskets in a badly lighted gym, and obviously missing a lot of shots. Then they are asked to judge how good the players were. The players in the well-lighted gym were considered superior.

 In another example, a group of people are brought in for an experiment and told they are going to play a quiz game. They are paired off and they draw lots. One person gets a card that says he or she is going to be the “Contestant.” The other is told he or she is going to be the “Questioner.” The Questioner is then asked to draw up a list of ten “challenging but not impossible” questions based on his or her own areas of particular interest or expertise, so someone who is into Ukrainian folk music might come up with a series of questions based on Ukrainian folk music. The questions are posed to the Contestant, and after the quiz is over, both parties are asked to estimate the level of general knowledge of the other. Invariably, the Contestants rated the Questioners as being a lot Smarter than they themselves are.

 You can do these kinds of experiments a thousand different ways, and the answer almost always comes out the same way. This happens even when you give people a clear and immediate environmental explanation of the behavior they are being asked to evaluate: the gym, in the first case, has few lights on; the Contestant is being asked to answer the most impossibly biased and rigged set of questions. In the end, this doesn’t make much difference. There is something in all of us that makes us instinctively want to explain the world around us in terms of people’s essential attributes: he’s a better basketball player; that person is smarter than I am.

 We do this because we are a lot more attuned to personal cues than contextual cues. The FAE also makes the world a much simpler and more understandable place. In recent years, for example, there has been much interest in the idea that one of the fundamental factors in explaining personality is birth order: older siblings are domineering and conservative; younger siblings are more creative and rebellious. Psychologists actually tried to verify this claim and showed that we do reflect the influences of birth order. However, as the psychologist Judith Harris points out in The Nurture Assumption, this character applies only within family situations, and not once the children are in independent situations.

 When they are away from their families―in different contexts―older siblings are no more likely to be domineering and younger siblings no more likely to be rebellious than anyone else. The birth order myth is an example of the FAE in action. But you can see why we are so drawn to it. It is rather easy to define people just in terms of their family personality. It’s a kind of short-hand.If we constantly had to qualify every assessment of those around us, how would we make sense of the world? How much harder would it be to make the thousands of decisions we are required to make about whether we like someone, love someone, trust someone, or want to give someone advice?

 The psychologist Walter Mischel argues that the human mind has a kind of “reducing valve” that creates and maintains the perception of continuity even in the face of perpetual observed changes in actual behavior. He writes: “When we observe a woman who seems hostile and fiercely independent some of the time but passive, dependent and feminine on other occasions, our reducing valve usually makes us choose between the two patterns. We decide that one pattern is in the service of the other, or that both are in the service of a third motive. She must be a really ruthless lady with a façade of passivity―or perhaps she is a warm, passive-dependent woman with a surface defense of aggressiveness.But perhaps nature is bigger than our concepts and it is possible for the lady to be an intimidating, fiercely independent, passive, dependent, feminine, aggressive, warm, brutal person all-in-one. Of course which of these she is at any particular moment would not be random―it would depend on who she is with, when, how, and much, much more.

 But each of these aspects of herself may be a quite genuine and real aspect of her total being.”

 This illustrates that character is not something which is stable across different situations. It is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstance and context. Once we understand the effect of context on our assessment of character, it is possible to consider teaching about the power of context in educational settings. This may help reduce our tendency to judge people inaccurately, which can lead to prejudice. The challenge of turning the concept of FAE into a practical educational tool is enormous, but the benefits to our society could make this challenge worth attempting.




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