Why did he get so angry? What makes that person so creative? How did she feel when I said that? Every day our minds try like naïve psychologists to make sense of the behaviour of others.
According to research, we use our own beliefs about our own personal traits to predict the behaviour of others.
If you are predicting what makes a person creative, for example, you might think, ‘I’m an introvert and idealistic and also happen to be creative!’ So you basically form a belief that idealistic introverts are creative.
Your predictions about creativity, therefore, are biased by your own ‘scientific’ explanations about yourself and you generalise these theories to make predictions about everyone else. Psychologists call them ‘causal trait theories’.
But are causal trait theories accurate? Perhaps there are lots of extroverts who are realists and are even more creative?
Think of the implications of this research. You might enter into endless debates with someone because you formed fundamentally different beliefs about people.
You might, for example, believe that anxious people are more dependent in general because you’re laid-back and like your independence. Your colleague may believe that anxious people are more independent because he or she is an anxious person who prefers to work alone.
Both of you, therefore, approach an anxious colleague in different ways based on these theories. You may want to give the anxious person more support. Your colleague may instinctively back off and give them extra breathing room.
So, when making decisions, it might be humbling to realise that we are biased by our own theories about people.
I’m sure you’ll listen to my advice. After all, I happen to believe that only creative, intelligent, and forward-thinking people read my blog!