What would you say if I told you that a blind man could drive? I saw it happen… traveling at up to 60mph, instructed by professional race car driver Cindi Lux, our friend Dale made his way around PIR. No driver aids, just Dale’s hands and feet and Cindi’s eyes and voice. Priceless!
Now, what would you say if I told you that a blind man can drive better than you? Assumptive? Probably. Accurate? In some cases.
Fact is, the way we drive gives others a feeling about who we are and our driving style. Even what we drive can give that inference. We call this, biased driving.
The Fundamental Attribution Error, or FAE, is the tendency people have to overemphasize personal characteristics and ignore situational factors in judging others’ behavior. I have known this for years but Daniel R. Stadler, Ph.D put it to paper just a few months ago in Psychology Today. It is, driving with a bias of those around us.
Driving a pick-up truck I think nothing about keeping the proper distance from the vehicle in front of me. But put me in the car with the truck behind me and it may feel the truck driver is being a bit aggressive, too close… back-off man! Is he mad, I am going the speed limit, heck, I’m 5 over… what is his problem?
Drivers rolling thru stop signs, changing lanes without signaling, passing quickly on the right, traveling at 15mph below the speed limit slowing everyone down, slowing down to check directions or slamming on their brakes for a little varmint… with no thought of their surroundings… the madness!
George Carlin said, “anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.”
You might consider yourself to be a good and alert driver. Eyes on the road, checking the mirrors, two hands on the wheel. You are communicating your intentions with other drivers by signaling and smooth driving rather than with aggression and rude hand signals. But what does driving our driving really say? I venture to guess my perception is far different than yours and vise-verse. And this is where FAE starts to make it our problem… and we get mad!
Why is it that the incubator of the car makes us so angry? How is it that we are willing to act in ways we never would outside of the car?
The flow goes like this; we are driving to get someplace (the goal), traffic/bad drivers are our goal blocker, anonymity (cubicle of car) makes it easy to throw blame/bias – words/gestures, lack of accountability, communication with others is brief/non-personal and all interpersonal bias typically carries negative consequences. Then, when we do get to our goal. we are bent out of shape. All because we shape others’ actions from our bias.
So how do we get to our destination without Fundamental Attribution Error? Try the following;
Plan your trek. Keep the goal in mind, to get there safely! Avoid distractions in the vehicle (phone, food, talking… etc). If you feel you must apply FAE… Imagine being the other driver (what is on their mind). Then ask, would I act this way outside of the vehicle? Last, postpone your judgment. It will help in getting you to your destination safely.