Monday, January 27, 2014

Got carried away.

I was supposed to answer this question on my Social Psych homework:

Illustrate the power of the situation using an example from your own life (e.g., describe a time when others failed to recognize you because the situation was different from usual, or describe a time when a given situation influenced you to act contrary to your beliefs).

My answer:

Despite how deep we think our convictions might be, there are times when the power of the situation makes us turn a blind eye to even our dearest-held tenets. As a resident of Washington, D.C., this is painfully obvious every single day on my commute to work. I consider myself a Buddhist, and the concept of “ahimsa,” or non-violence, is a precept that I cling to at a most fundamental level. To Buddhists, non-violence does not just mean no fighting or punching or stabbing people; it prohibits name-calling, angry yelling, and even aggressive thoughts. However, if you have ever driven in Washington, D.C. during rush hour, you surely know that it is impossible not to get angry at the asinine and homicidal behavior of other Washington motorists. No matter how many mantras I chant or Dalai Lama YouTube videos I sit and meditate to, it did not stop me from extending my middle finger to a guy in a white BMW on Interstate 395 in Arlington, Virginia several days ago. I am pretty sure he was actively trying to end my life.

In an interesting social psychology twist, I also committed the fundamental attribution error: by permanently attributing to him the quality of “huge douchebag in a white BMW,” I ignored the profound effect that the high-intensity, freeway situation had on this other driver’s limbic system, thus causing him to behave aggressively. However, he was not in a stimulating, amygdala-firing environment when he was at the dealership and decided, “I’m going to buy a BMW 7-series. Yes, and make it a white one.”

I kind of want to not change that last part.

Should I turn this in? 

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