gray world

On a crowded city sidewalk, a stranger knocks hard into your shoulder. Aggressive gesture or innocent mistake? In the split second it takes to lock eyes with your might-be assailant, your mind may already have supplied an answer to that question. Many of us, in situations like this, exhibit something called hostile attribution bias: a tendency to err on the side of assuming malevolence in the intentions of others.
For some of us, this social reflex has some practical justification. If you’ve spent time in a threatening environment—a menacing schoolyard, home, neighborhood, or workplace—hyper-vigilance of this sort may be a mechanism to avoid a real chance of getting harassed, punked, or bullied.
The trouble is, the more we sense hostility in others, the more aggressive we tend to be in return. And in many social contexts, hostile attribution bias is, as psychologists put it, highly “maladaptive.” –Pacific Standard

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story or scene in which hostile attribution bias creates the conflict that drives the plot forward.

Journaling Prompt: Do you feel that you have hostile attribution bias? Why or why not?

Art Prompt: Hostile attribution bias

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about hostile attribution bias and how it might affect them in their daily life Give the ways that they can combat this tendency.

Photo Credit: Angelo Amboldi on Flickr

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