October 15, 2002
In Lani Guinier's writing "Second Proms and Second Primaries" she discusses the polarized voting problem in Phillips County Arkansas. In Malcolm Gladwell's "The Power of Context" he discusses the crime epidemic in New York City. Within both of these scenarios the people involved are looking for a way to solve their problem. One way to try and fix these problems is to use the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). The FAE can be explained as "human beings making the mistake of overestimation the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of situation and context."(Gladwell, 296) In an example a group of people are asked to watch two equally talented basketball players. One player is shooting in a well-lighted gym, while the other is shooting in a badly-lighted gym. The player playing in the badly-lighted gym had missed more shots than the other in the well-lighted gym.
The group of people watching were then asked who they believed was the better basketball player, they responded by saying the player in the well-lighted gym was because he had made more baskets. (Gladwell, 296) We notice this because we are more adjusted to personal cues than contextual cues (Gladwell, 297). In both Phillips County and NYC if someone were to try and use the FAE theory to resolve the problems they would discover that their problems might become solved but the solution would be socially unacceptable.
Racial profiling would be a solution to solve NYC's crime problem using the FAE. "During the 1980's, New York City's averaged well over 2,000 murders and 600,000 serious felonies a year."(Gladwell, 287) If someone were to attempt to improve the city's conditions they might use the FAE's theory. If they were to follow this theory I believe NYC officials...