A fundamental mistake we often make when judging other people is assuming that their behaviour mainly reflects their personality. Unfortunately this ignores another major influence on how people behave staring us right in the face: the situation.
Don't take my word for it, though, consider a modern take on an ancient bible story. Prominent social psychologists Darley & Batson (1973) were interested in what influences people's helping behaviours and decided to test the parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable is about a Jewish man travelling to Jericho who has been attacked by bandits and lies half dead at the side of the road. A priest and temple assistant pass him by before finally a Samaritan (who stereotypically hated Jews) stops to offer his assistance.
The moral of the story is clear enough but, wondered Darley and Batson, have we judged the priest and the temple assistant too quickly, perhaps they were just in a hurry?
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