The trap of causal thinking in aversive situations
Imagined an incident in which you are being crashed by a stranger in the street. If you interpreted that the stranger crashed you accidentally while he was scrolling his mobile phone, you may let go of the accident quickly and forgive him easily. If you perceived the stranger intentionally crashed you, you will be very angry with him and may have the urge to retaliate. Primal thinking may affect us on our interpretation of the aversive situations. In fact, when information regarding the cause of the situations as ambiguous or incomplete, we may be disposed to think the cause is deliberate rather than accidental.
When we face a threat and are in a conflictual relationship, we may tend to use primal thinking. That is, we may be stuck in the pattern of making erroneous causal explanations because we tend to exclude contradictory information or alternative explanations. For instance, if I had an unpleasant experience with a service provider, I tend to perceive any further delay of the service or mistakes made as intentional rather than being affected by other external causes. We use primal thinking in these scenarios because the explanation of the aversive event is crucial both for our anticipation of future outcome and for long-term projection of our well-being. This simplistic thinking process is subject to bias. We may attribute erroneously the act to an ill intention or a character flaw of the other party. In fact, with complete information or clear picture of the situation, we may realise it is only due to the external causes that are unrelated to the other party.
In the recent social unrest of Hong Kong, people are differentiating themselves as having different views on social issues. In many instances, family members or friends with different views become enemies and cut off from each other. We need to be more self-aware and self-reflective in our interpretation of others’ intention of a certain acts. Sometimes, an act that distressed us of the other party may only be caused by external factors, and may not be due to their subjective views or ill intention.