Skip to main content

Middle Ground: Puzzling Public Behaviors

Middle Ground: Puzzling Public Behaviors

Why do people do the things they do?

Try this:

  • Pick a behavior from the list below.
  • What is the reason that someone else would do this?
Because they had to.
Because they just wanted to.
  • What is the reason you would do this?
Because I had to.
Because I just want to.

What's going on?

It's often easier for us to think that other people's behavior is due to their character, as opposed to their circumstances or experiences. Social scientists have named this tendency the fundamental attribution error. We're less likely to make this error when it comes to our own behavior, because we know what motivates us to do a particular thing. How do you explain why people do what they do? Are your explanations different for yourself?

  • Pick a new behavior from the list. Repeat.



National Science Foundation
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1713638. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.