The Fundamental Attribution Error is the name of a bias towards assuming that permanent properties of people or objects cause their observed behaviour, rather than circumstances. In this chapter it refers to the perception of the wizarding public that Harry saved them from Lord Voldemort , when Harry considers their gratitude misplaced due to the fact that it's more likely it was some strenuous circumstances than "some kind of permanent, enduring destroy-the-Dark-Lord trait."
“He’s only eleven years old, Hermione.”
“So are you.”
“I don’t count.”
Detailed chapter synopsis
Harry and McGonagall visit the Moke Shop and Harry purchases a Super Pouch QX31 for 15 Galleons. Harry manages to hide 30 Galleons he stole from his own vault inside the pouch without McGonagall’s knowledge.
Outside the shop an old man recognizes Harry and wonders if he’s the real Harry Potter, having heard rumors that he’d really been killed by Voldemort’s Killing Curse and that was why no one had heard of him since then. Harry answers that as far back as he can remember he’s had the scar on his forehead and he’s been called Harry Potter, but that it was possible that there was a conspiracy to raise him as if he were Harry Potter. McGonagall tells him hat he looks almost exactly like his father James did during his first year at Hogwarts except that he has his mother Lily’s eyes. The old man thanks Harry for what he did and leaves them.
When McGonagall expresses her displeasure with the way Harry handled the encounter, Harry explains the fundamental attribution error to her: that people tend to attribute permanent, enduring traits to people that would be better explained by circumstance and context.
They stop next at Madam Malkin’s Robes, Harry to get his robes fitted while McGonagall went to get a drink, which she said she desperately needed. She promises Harry that Madam Malkin will not make a scene over him being Harry Potter, being one of the most composed people McGonagall knows. In the shop, Harry stands next to a blond-haired boy who asks him if he’s Hogwarts, too. Harry, seeing an opportunity to forestall another well-wisher, asks the boy his name and begins to gush over him when he learns the boy is Draco Malfoy. Draco responds smugly, glad to meet someone who knows his place, and Harry ladles on more adulation, which Draco takes in stride, really believing the praise Harry is heaping on him.
Harry finally confesses his identity, and Draco realizes that his adulation was probably feigned. He immediately tries to reverse the adulation by pretending to gush over Harry, who finds it less than entertaining. Draco even go so far as to say he wants to be just like Harry so he can grow up to defeat Dark Lords, too, when suddenly his father Lucius enters the shop and reprimands Draco for saying such things.
Harry tries to distract Malfoy by gushing over him when McGonagall enters the shop as Harry says he plans on getting into Slytherin House himself. She is horrified by what she has heard. At the same moment Draco tries the same tactic on McGonagall, saying he was thinking of trying to get sorted into Gryffindor, causing both Malfoy and McGonagall to bellow in surprise. Lucius grabbed Draco and dragged him out of the shop.
When McGonagall asks Madam Malkin what has been going on in her shop, she and her two attendants break up laughing. Harry tells McGonagall that he hasn’t finished getting fitted for his robes and that she might want to go back and have another drink.
Rationality and science
fundamental attribution error (or correspondence bias): the tendency for people to place an undue emphasis on internal characteristics of the agent (character or intention), rather than external factors, in explaining another person's behavior in a given situation
J. K. Rowling is staring at you. Can you feel her eyes on you? She's reading your mind using her Rowling Rays.
29 August 1991, continuing from Chapter 4