Classroom Demonstrations in Social Psychology

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Self Serving Bias re: Traffic/Homelessness

I have done this only once, but with very rewarding results. Basically, I asked everyone to think of 3 reasons why someone is homeless and write them down.

Then I asked everyone in class to think of a specific time when someone in a traffic/driving situation was rude to them. I went around the room and asked why the person may have been rude. Invariably, you'll get a mix of situational ("in a hurry") and dispositional ("jerk" or "bad driver") attributions. I keep track of the ratio.

Next, I ask them to think of a specific time when they were rude to someone else in traffic and the reason why they were rude. I got 100% situational attributions in my classroom demonstration (ie. "didn't see them" or "in a hurry").

Obviously, there is a bias somewhere as it's impossible for both ratios of situational/dispositional attributions to be correct simultaneously for all people.

Last, I ask them to look at their reasons why someone might be homeless and reconsider these reasons in terms of self serving bias.

Actor Observer Effect - Participants rate celebrities and themselves on attributes and find that their own ratings "depend on the situation" more often.

The Fundamental Attribution Error and Teacher Fallibility - Students learn that the teacher's seemingly all encompasing knowledge is situational, meaning that the teacher doesn't necessarily know more in other situations (ie. non-academic/psychology questions).

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