excerpt from the book The Myth of Addiction, using Harold Kelley’s ANOVA model of attribution:
“Suppose we observe one day that Tom is hitting Mary, and that we have information available (of whatever type – observations, second-hand reports, stereotypes, prejudices etc.) about the pattern of consensus, consistency and distinctiveness surrounding this act. For example, it is just Tom who hits Mary (low consensus), he seems to hit Mary quite often (high consistency) and he also hits other girls (low distinctiveness). In these circumstances, we are likely to explain the event in terms of a negative property of Tom; he is aggressive, unpleasant, a bully, and so forth.
Imagine, however, that our information suggests high consensus (other children also hit Mary); high consistency (they hit her often); and these children are not generally noted for hitting other people (high distinctiveness). In these circumstances, we are likely to attribute the act to some disposition of Mary; perhaps for example there is something she repeatedly does that test everyone’s patience. Whatever the truth of the matter, we are likely to attribute the behaviour to a negative property of Mary.”
“TOM HITS MARY.
consensus HI or LO
consistency HI or LO
distinctiveness HI or LO
Using Kelley’s three dimensions, we have seen how the pattern LO, HI, LO leads to explanation in terms of negative attributions about Mary. It is amusing and instructive to consider other alternatives, and to try and predict the type of explanation which might be forthcoming. Some patterns are quite easy, others are more subtle. For example, HI, LO, HI implies that there are particular situations in which Mary gets on everyone’s nerves (i.e. a person x situation interaction); and LO, LO, HI suggests that the incident was due to some unfortunate and unforeseeable circumstance.”
In reading this I can’t help but go back to a conversation I had with my friend Lauren yesterday. We were talking about being quick to pick out things in other people that annoy you. She says that we do that because we are the ones that possess that trait. Because we know so much about what it looks like, it is much easier for us to point it out in other people, and it annoys us, because we don’t like to have that behavior. Yet, instead of correcting it within ourselves, we pick apart other people. It’s a crisis of self-awareness.
This concept has been messing with me recently.
My friend Tim gave me an object lesson in this a couple weeks ago. I have a tendency to call other cars on the road parts of the male anatomy in a derogatory manner. I call this one car an asshole because he makes a mistake that I myself make all the time. Tim, who has known me since diapers, swiftly and confidently shares his observation that I recognize it so well because it’s my area of expertise; I know an asshole on the road when I see one. …
For the next 20 minutes I just sat there waiting for the light to change to a color that didn’t reflect my attitude, coming to a slow and painful realization that he was right… that I’m either the only one or the quickest one finding fault in these situations (low consensus)… that I do this quite often (high consistency)… that I tend to do this with a lot of people (low distinctiveness)… and to add to the ANOVA model (sorry, Kelley), that I seem to always do this strictly with people that possess traits very similar to mine (we’ll call this ‘high commonality’).
That’s a LO, HI, LO, HI, in case you’re counting, or in other words:
Nathan hits Mary with behind-the-back remarks because he sees his own negative traits in her, and this is his own passive-aggressive way of addressing dissatisfaction within himself as a person.