Why are so many people drawn to conspiracy theories in times of crisis?
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As you mentioned, the FAE is mostly based on very contrived, artificial lab experiments. In real life, I often experience the opposite. For example, we have a small store owner nearby who is very kind, and one who is very unfriendly. When I go in with my friends and point out the unfriendly treatment, they say "oh she must have just had a bad day"; in other words, they attribute the trait to the situation.
For a final undergrad project, I did my study on the Environmental Attribution Error, and found it to be alive and well. Both students and faculty attributed opposite personality outcomes to the exact same backgrounds (frugal and generous both caused by having a poor childhood; shyness and aggression both caused by an abusive father). I find it fascinating that so few others have studied this, because my outcomes were quite robust (let me know if you want me to send you my APA-convention poster presentation).
Something people often forget is that it matters how extreme the situation or the personality trait is, in how powerful an effect it has. To say the situation has a stronger effect than personality is absurd. When I walk over to my neighbor's house, one of her dogs always barks at me, while the other wags its tail. It is not sometimes this one, sometimes that one. It also does not depend on who arrives; the dogs still generally act according to their character. I know some people would like it to be otherwise; they feel we have a better chance of changing society if people are more malleable. The sad thing is, however, that the over-emphasis on the situation and effect of society in academic circles gives a free pass to people with psychopathic tendencies and abusers. In countries where women have little power such as certain rural areas in India, for example, some men treat their wives great, while others not so much. It would be outrageous to blame all the women who are experiencing abuse at the hands of their husbands; yet that is what the theory implies.
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