Actor-Observer Bias and Fundamental Attribution Error are different types of Attributional Bias in social psychology, which helps us to understand attribution of behavior.
Attributional Bias is thoroughly explained in our article on Attribution Theory. Make sure you check it out.
Actor-Observer Bias and Fundamental Attribution Error are basically two sides of the coin. Both these terms are concerned with the same aspect of Attributional Bias.
While both these biases help us to understand and explain the attribution of behavior, the difference arises in different aspects each of these biases tends to cover.
Let’s look at each of these biases briefly and then discuss their similarities and differences.
Fundamental Attribution Error
Our tendency to explain someone’s behavior based on the internal factors, such as personality or disposition, is explained as fundamental attribution error.
So, fundamental attribution error is only focused on other people’s behavior. It is strictly about attributions for others’ behaviors.
Read more about Fundamental Attribution Error.
The Actor-Observer bias is best explained as a tendency to attribute other people’s behavior to internal causes while attributing our own actions to external causes.
Actor-Observer bias discusses attributions for others’ behaviors as well as our own behaviors. It talks about the difference in perspective due to our habitual need to prioritize ourselves.
Read more about Actor-Observer Bias.
Similarities Between Fundamental Attribution Error and Actor-Observer Bias
These biases seem quite similar and yet there are few clear differences. But, before we dive into separating them apart, let’s look at few obvious similarities.
The first similarity we can point is that both these biases focus on the attributions for others’ behaviors. In both cases, others’ behaviors are blamed on their internal dispositions or their personality.
Another similarity here is the manner in which the disposition takes place. Various studies have indicated that both fundamental attribution error and actor-observer bias is more prevalent when the outcomes are negative.
Differences Between Fundamental Attribution Error and Actor-Observer Bias
The major difference lies between these two biases in the parties they cover.
Fundamental Attribution Error is strictly about attribution of others’ behaviors. One’s own behaviors are irrelevant in this case.
For example, if someone trips and falls, we might call them clumsy or careless.
On the other hand, Actor-Observer Bias covers both attributions of others’ and one’s own behaviors. This bias differentiates the manner in which we attribute different behaviors.
As mentioned before, actor-observer bias talks about our tendency to explain someone’s behavior based n the internal factors while explaining our own behaviors on external factors.
For example, if someone trips and falls, we might call them clumsy or careless.On the other hand, if we fell on the exact same spot, we are more likely to blame the ground for being uneven.
A word from Psychestudy
If we had to explain it all in one paragraph, Fundamental Attribution Error is an attribution bias that discusses our tendency to explain someone’s behaviors on their internal dispositions. This bias is often the result of a quick judgment, which is where this bias gets its name as a ‘Fundamental Attribution Error’.
Actor-Observer Bias, as the term suggests, talks about the evaluation of actor’s (one’s own) behaviors and observer (someone else’s) behaviors. Actor-Observer Bias is a self-favoring bias, in a way.
However, it’s still quite different Self-Serving Bias. We have a neat little article on this topic too. Check out our blog on Self-Serving Bias.