We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
We somehow lost the original of this post, with its comments. Sorry -
If I see you run through a stop sign once, my tendency - or bias - is to assume that you are a jerk who does things like that all the time.
That's because my bias is about the stability and predictability of a person's characterologic make-up. That bias - if it is a bias - is called Attribution Error in Social Psychology. After all, your wife might be in labor in the car and you don't give a darn what laws you break to get to the hospital before she dumps the kid on the dirty floor of the old car. On the other hand, you could be a jerk who generally ignores rules.
Indeed it is interesting that folks who have not been in intensive psychotherapy or psychoanalysis often tend to attribute other peoples' behavior on their personalities, but to explain or justify their own behavior in relation to external situations and forces. On the other hand, folks who have been in analysis often tend to over-interpret adaptive, occasional, or "out of character" behavior as internally-directed when it might not be. As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Therefore, when we contemplate our own behavior or the behavior of others, we have to negotiate between the Scylla of Attribution Error and over-interpretation, and the Charybdis of Externalization. Therein lies the art of comprehending psychological reality.
We psychoanalysts, when we are doing analytic work anyway, tend to focus more on what we call "psychic reality" - the inner reality - than on external reality. In an almost pomo sense (although I hate the comparison), we approach what we see and are told as a text or a narrative about where a person's head is, mostly regardless of its objective factuality (except in extreme situations).
Why? Because we are paid to try to understand how people's thoughts and fears and fantasies work in order for them to gain better control over their lives. Your dentist doesn't care about your love life, and we don't care very much about your cavities. Our bias is that, most but not all of the time, a person is his own worst enemy.
How did this whole thing come about? Well, it's the history of Psychoanalysis. Freud realized that not every one of his patients in his Neurology practice in Vienna with psychosomatic symptoms could have been sexually abused as they reported (probably some had been, and some not). That line of thought lead him to the notion of "psychic reality" and the role that unconscious fantasy plays in peoples' lives - in this case, mainly unconscious incestuous fantasies, which he correctly observed were universal despite the taboo.
If you are interested in the story, Peter Gay's Freud: A Life for our Time is a good place to go. Peter Gay underwent psychoanalytic training and psychoanalysis himself at the New Haven (Western New England) Institute, partly, at least, to understand his subject. One hopes, partly to understand himself better, too.
I do not advise reading Freud's work without a guide. It's too easy to misunderstand, and the translations from the German are imperfect in many ways.
A similar phenomenon occurs with people we are close to versus people at a distance. We are more likely to take the actions of those close to us personally, and believe they are volitional. We are more likely to see the actions of those at a distance as less volitional. This is especially true of bad behavior. For example, we assume little Johnny is "being bad on purpose" when we are upset with him, but the child misbehaving in the supermarket we acknowledge is tired, or responding to the impatience of his parent.
Marital arguments often have these thing just below the surface.
Assistant Village Idiot