People tend to be too inclined to attribute the behavior of others to their permanent characteristics. They always underestimate the power of the situation to force someone to behave in a certain way.
Social psychologists call it a "fundamental attribution error . "
A classic study
In a now classic study to demonstrate this bias, social psychologists David Napolitan and George Goethals asked their study subjects to have a brief face-to-face talk with a woman pretending to be a clinical psychology graduate student .
The "graduate student" was actually an accomplice of the investigators, trained to act either in a friendly way or in an unsympathetic way towards the subjects. With one half of the subjects she was affectionate and understanding; with the other, distant and critical.
After the talk, the subjects were asked to complete a test that included a series of points regarding the personality of the graduate student. They expressly instructed them to evaluate their true personality, not just their behavior. But since the subjects had met the woman only once, they did not count on anything other than her behavior during the interview. And ** that’s how they judged the girl, based on that brief experience **.
The surprise came when the procedure was changed a bit and new subjects in the study were informed in advance that the graduate student had been asked, for the purposes of the experiment, to behave sometimes in a friendly manner and sometimes not. . This additional information made no difference at all .