Psychoanalysis as Attribution Effect

in the midst of a rant about how easily people misunderstand each other when discussing things on bulletin boards I had occasion to make mention of the Attribution Effect (aka Attribution Theory aka Misattribution Effect) and found a pithy paragraph that summed it up quite well:

As a tendency, we attribute our own failures or mistakes to specific circumstances. But other people’s failures and mistakes seem to us to be a product of permanent features about that person. In other words, we are less charitable with our fellow humans than with ourselves. As a third rule, we also tend to over-generalize the failings in others into being a broad pattern of “character.” Our own mistakes were a one-time thing, but the other person’s mistake is an indicator of “how they are” in all realms of their life.
–from here

Shortly there after I was compelled to poo-poo someone’s psychoanalytic (mis)interpretation of the situation. (Having comfortably negotiated my own anal stage, i rarely hold back and cheerfully poo-poo at every available opportunity.) It made me think that psychoanalysis is ultimately the worst offender when it comes to misattribution. Absolutely everything that the patient has done can be interpreted in terms of ultimate causes in the distant past but the analyst will not attempt to test his confidence in this by predicting what will happen next. (Because, in any case, whatever happens can be reinterpreted to fit the facts.)

{I have a great Freud quote from Michael Rutter to go here but i’ll have to dig it out and type it in.)

Nowhere in the literature on counter-transference have I seen the Attribution Effect mentioned as a danger to be aware off and yet I can think of nowhere that it is a bigger threat.

About caspar

Caspar is just one monkey among billions. Battering his keyboard without expectations even of peanuts, let alone of aping the Immortal Bard. By day he is an infantologist at Birkbeck Babylab, by night he runs BabyLaughter.net
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