Are you feeling down these days? Does it seem as if everybody is saying you are wrong and they are right—like when your customers are screaming about your bad service? Maybe even your relationship with your significant other is going south—and, of course, it's your fault.

So just what is going on?

Well, if you're like most people, you live in a world where blame often happens in a systematic and predictable way. People simply have a tendency to believe the fault lies with someone else—and that someone else can be you. Of course, the process can work in the opposite direction, too... as when you are always right and someone else is wrong.

To answer this (and better diagnose what's really going on), we offer you a handy idea called the fundamental attribution error, or FAE for short.

Also known as correspondence bias or attribution effect, FAE has long been recognized by social psychologists and researchers of consumer behavior. It refers essentially to a bias that people have in assigning responsibility for behavior. Specifically, it goes something like this: If something bad happens to me, it's due to somebody or something else; If something good happens to me, well, it's because of me!

It is hardwired in our brains (you see it plainly with young children), and it remains with us throughout our life.

Now, you might think of this as a cute scientific finding that has little relevance to marketing, but you would be wrong. It has everything to do with marketing, sales, service, alliances, and marketing relationships. (We'll go even further: It has an effect on your personal relationships as well.)

Bad Service, or Why You're Always at Fault

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image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is the CEO and founder of MarketingProfs. He's also a longtime marketing professor and mentor at the University of Southern California, where he leads Mindful USC, its mindfulness center.