B C E F G H I L M O P R S T

Fundamental Attribution Error

Monish Subherwal

We all judge! Ever hear someone say “our users are older people so we should make our design more corporate. That modern look scares them!”?

While this point may be worth considering (especially the trust factor) perhaps the focus shouldn’t be on “look and feel” but rather what works for the user. Maybe the focus should be where they are having difficulty in the UX lifecycle/customer journey. There is a sound argument that a new modern look may be easier to use (of course you should test it out).

When we categorize people as “old” or “wealth builders” or “sales people”, we label their personality based on their behavior . That way we can all talk about them and understand that personality type. However, the this is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error.

We are over-valuing personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors. In other words, we are labeling someone’s behavior based on their personality rather than the circumstances he/she is in (“‘oh! most Facebook users are lonely people who want friends” or “early adopters tend to register for our product”).

Instead of asking “What type of user is this” consider asking “where is this person in the UX lifecycle.”