I was planning to post this at some point, but now it's relevant as an interesting example of people perceiving the same event differently when they're offended. Now, we can observe the effects of offendedness on people's cognition! A Bad Case of the Dates is one of those internet humor sites that curate stories of weird behavior on dates. Some of the stories read like the person is suffering a psychotic break, but some of them just read like inexplicable weirdness.
Except now they're posting rebuttals! Which means you can read both peoples' perceptions of the events!
I didn't read that many, but here are some observations from reading a few pairs:
- Offended people are good at keeping track of what general topic is being talked about but not what is said about or how it is being discussed.
- Offended people easily distort things like time, the number of times something repetitive happened, etc.
- Offended people write about their own actions as if they are doing everything they can to keep the situation peaceful, while describing the other person's actions as hostile and escalating. Is this because offended people think they are keeping their offendedness perfectly hidden, while in reality the other person can see it?
- Offended people seem to read more additional offensiveness from the actions of the other person without sufficient evidence. They stop taking the person's words at face value and start reading more into connotation.
Overall, I used to think this site was pretty funny because some of the stories are really weird. But after reading this section, I just can't quite read it anymore because now I can roughly extrapolate all the distortions that the person is putting onto the non-rebutted stories. And the whole thing seems tragic now because it seems like these people go in with good intentions and then something really tiny just flips a switch in their brain and they turn defensive and stop communicating/cooperating and instead start cherrypicking their experience for false evidence that the other person is an inexplicably evil.
(And, of course, given that this is the internet, I realize that all of these could be completely fictional even though they claim that they're not.)
EDIT: I guess I'd say that definitely the stories are over-dramatized, which is rewarded by the website, so I wouldn't claim that these are real data. But I do think they are useful cautionary tales of not framing your narratives as "one time I met a crazy person who acted weird and crazy" and instead "one time I met a person who acted in a way that looked weird to me because I don't know / didn't realize something. Maybe they had this set of plausible reasons." More practice for making and testing hypotheses!