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Mindware – The Power of the Situation

Today's short post will be about one of the two books that I'm reading: Mindware. The book is supposed to give you tools for thinking intelligently and discusses ways people err. Thinking intelligently is going to be very important in this day and age of fake news. A lot of people are believing in conspiracy theories and lies or "alternative facts" are being bandied about. How do we know if something is true or not? How do people get caught up in fake news? What's real and what's not? I don't know if this book will help in the area of fake news but it should provide some thinking tools to bolster your logical thinking.

Let's take a look at the slide below.

The slider above shows a scenario and asks "what is going on?" It's rather ambiguous. You first see a picture of a black man behind bars and a quote that says "Your bad attitude needs to change." A black man behind bars so we all think, he's in jail and someone tells him to adjust his attitude. But, next comes an unexpected scenario where you see a picture of a young woman with an attitude saying "I will do whatever I want to do." Now the perception changes. It's actually the black guy, probably a lawyer, telling the young woman to change her attitude.

Chapter two talks about the power of the situation where a situation can force you to act in ways you wouldn't have. An example would be a situation where if someone is in need of help and there are a lot of people around, you are not as likely to help out as you would if you were alone. Your behavior will change according to the situation. Americans have a tendency, though, to judge people based upon their character rather than look at the situation. Americans make what is called the Fundamental Attribution Error which is looking at the personal characteristics of the person and ignoring the situation. The Asians, on the other hand, will look at the situation as the driver of the behavior.

The example in the pictures is probably more of a perception error where white Americans immediately think "Black man behind bars? He did the crime." Because of the way the picture is presented, not only are you getting the situation wrong, you are also incorrectly attributing some characteristics that is just not there. So not only do you have to consider the situation, you have to make sure you have the right situation. You might have to back up a bit to see the larger picture to know what is going on. Dispositional characters may be less influential than situational factors.

The Asians, because they look at the bigger picture, they believe that individuals can change, because it is the situation that drives behaviors. Change the environment and you increase the odds of changing the behavior.

 

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