Monday, February 05, 2007

Grrr...I'm a jackass.

There is a principle in social psychology that people, whenever possible, will ascribe negative things that happen to them to external motivations; negative things that involve other people internal motivations; positive things that happen to them internal motivations; positive things that involve other people external motivations. It's called the "attribution theory"

For example:
Suzy and Johnny take a test.
Suzy gets a 55%, failing.
Johnny gets a 98%, passing.

If you ask Suzy why she failed the test, it's likely she'll say that the test was hard, or that the professor's instructions weren't clear enough. If you ask her why Johnny passed the test, she'll say he was lucky. If you asked Johnny why he passed the test, he'd say it was because he was smart, or because he studied very hard. If you ask Johnny why Suzy failed the test, he'll say it was because she was unprepared, or because she wasn't very smart.

There's also something called a locus of control scale, a personality test that is designed to find out whether a person, in general, believes that they do things because of internal motivations, or in reaction to the outside world.

If someone has a very, very internal locus of control, they have a belief that everything that happens, happens in some way because of something they did or something about them. It can be a symptom of a couple really festive personality disorders. They believe that the mail is late because the mailman is mad at them; the countergirl at the coffee shop smiled because she's in love with them; it rained because they wore new boots to work. If someone has a really, really, external locus of control, it's a sign of a couple other fun diagnoses. They believe that their girlfriend dumped them because she's a lesbian; their boss fired them because he's a racist; they failed the class because the professor is an idiot. They believe that nothing that happens to them is within their control.

Most normal people are in the middle of the two.

Today, I was Mrs. Sociopathic External Locus of control. I wonder if this means I'm going crazy; or that, because I noticed it, that I'm completely sane. At this moment I know that I didn't talk in class because I didn't raise my hand; that I didn't get my point across because I wasn't forceful enough. I was also Mrs. Baseline Attribution theory. It's not people's gender or previous education that makes them more assertive than I am; it's that they speak the fuck up- and I don't.

And I feel like a douchebag because of it.

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