"That's not like you to behave like that!". How many times have you heard that exclamation? It's nonsensical of course, because 'you', in the sense of a consistent, predictable, reliable personality, do not exist. Like treacle moulding itself around all in its path, your personality is embarrassingly malleable, dictated not by who you are, but by where you are, who you're with, and how you've behaved in the past. The erroneous belief that you have a pervasive personality that exists beyond the current circumstances you find yourself in, has been dubbed the 'fundamental attribution error'. As Malcolm Gladwell, put it in his book 'The Tipping Point':
"...when it comes to interpreting other people's behaviour, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context... The reason that most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment..." (p.162-3; ISBN: 0-349-11346-7).There's an empowering twist to this message. Imagine awaking from a torpor having forgotten how your friends and family see you. Perhaps, unchained from everyone's expectations for how you ought to behave, you could be whoever you liked.
Dr. Christian Jarrett
Labels: Reasons Why 'You' Don't Exist