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The fundamental attribution error is a cognitive bias that explains how we overemphasize people’s character traits and personality traits when making judgments of their behaviors, especially downplaying the real situational factors behind their actions. Let’s think about a plausible contemporary real world scenario. You happen to come across an individual in the supermarket who seems to overbuy sanitary products during the COVID 19 pandemic period and you make a quick conclusion for the person to be a panic buyer. But, as per the real case, his intention can be to donate them! What you’ve missed is the situational factor behind his behavior. The decisions derived based on such false assumptions are indeed damaging in many ways.
Not only in regular human activities, but also the fundamental attribute error plays a serious role in digital marketing to change the directions of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). This cognitive bias can be evidently seen in digital marketing when a brand gauges their competitors’ strengths and abilities. As a digital marketer, if you were to deal with fundamental attribution error, then the decisions made on behalf are highly likely to be error prone. Perhaps your digital marketing campaign will take you nowhere.
Consider every wee bit of situational factor in the process of creating the market intelligence report. If we fail to consider the real factors for the market changes by being deceived by certain other non-existing or less important factors as per our judgments, then it's indeed a deceptive market that we study. A marketing campaign directed towards a deceptive market will be a huge disaster towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) followed by wasted resources?
We should never underestimate any movement of that competitor who is developing rapidly, who we formerly recognized to be a poor performer. Indeed, the brand personality of that competitor could be very poor in the past, but how exactly can we be sure that they won't last long this time, or that they won't be able to become a great threat to us subsequently? No, we can't! If we do, then we must consider ourselves to be a victim of the fundamental attribution error! So, baseless assumptions should be avoided at any cost in digital marketing if you devise to thrive towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).
From the customer's point of view, they can be baffled as a result of this cognitive bias and eventually it can be very damaging for a brand's reputation. Think through this. You buy a high end fountain pen for a premium price as a gift for your mentor by considering all the good feedback on the product. Your mentor opens the case to notice that the pen is leaking. What your first and most probably the only conclusion would be? Yes, you would think that you were deceived by the company! Indeed, most of us would believe you. Then you go on publishing negative reviews on the company's website and other social media pages. Now your feedback can be the turning point of the brand towards downhill.
Well, did you ever pay attention to the other possible factors for the malfunctioning of the pen rather than judging the brand right away? How did you miss the fact that your mentor's house was located on a hill of extremely high altitude, so the real reason for the leakage is the brisk pressure difference? Indeed, here you have been trapped by the cognitive bias of fundamental attribution error and on the note of your feedback, many customers are misled and making their own version of failure. The role of any successful digital marketer is to address the issue and recognize the situational factor for the malfunctioning of the pen (the brisk change of the pressure) and to come up with a strong marketing plan to repair the damage.
Fundamental attribution error is all about our tendency of being biased towards the personality traits of someone to make judgments without considering the obvious situational factors behind the case. Therefore, we ultimately come into conclusions which are deceiving. This cognitive bias should be avoided at any cost while devising and implementing digital marketing solutions. From the digital marketing point of view, studying the competitor behavior as well as the customer behavior should be solely done based on the situational factors as they are the pillars of your digital marketing campaign. Otherwise, it will all go in waste!
The references contain experiments and studies that prove this bias is there.
Are you curious about how to apply this bias in experimentation? We've got that information available for you!