Thursday, March 13, 2008

Social Psychology 101

I had a bit of an "Aha!" moment this morning, while reading yet another commentary about whether or not Geraldine Ferraro's remarks were racist. My thought, by the way, has been that, racist or not, what she said was certainly demeaning and condescending. In other words, pretty much Standard Operating Procedure for Hillary Clinton and her surrogates. Case in point, Hillary's absurd reduction of Barack Obama's accomplishments to one speech he gave in 2002.

Anyway, I don't know why this didn't occur to me sooner, given that I'm actually teaching the social psychology section of my intro psych class right now. But this is a classic example of the self-serving bias.

This is our tendency to take credit for success (self-enhancing bias) and deny any responsibility for failure (self-protective bias).

In other words, if I get the promotion, it's because I worked very, very hard for it. Also, I'm brilliant. And charming. But if someone else gets it instead, they obviously just got lucky. Probably "knew the right people, scratched the right backs" and so forth.

I ran a red light? Oh my goodness--I never do that sort of thing! But my kid is sick, and I was in a hurry to pick up some medicine, and I guess I was just preoccupied.

Someone else ran a red light? Clearly a reckless scofflaw with a callous disregard for human life.

I'm actually teaching this chapter again tonight. Somehow, I'll find a way to resist the temptation to mention Hillary Clinton's campaign when I'm giving examples. :)