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“Everyones an Idiot Except for Me” Naive Realism

April 26th, 2018 No comments

“How could anyone think this way?”

Political polarization between members of America’s two major political is a common topic of discussion in modern America. People from opposite sides of the political spectrum no longer seem to view each other as having a different opinion, but as being either stupid or in some way morally contemptuous. A quick foray into a social media platform like twitter can demonstrate this. In a typical political argument on twitter there is very little debate and many more accusations of selfish motives and moral posturing. Has one side really become corrupted and the other’s loss of dialogue simply a response to that or are many Americans suffering from the cognitive bias “Naïve Realism“.

Naive Realism is commonly defined as the belief that one’s way of looking at the world is based on the objective interpretation of the world and therefore anyone who thinks differently must be misinformed, stupid, or morally dangerous. Experiments have been done that show the effects of naïve realism across a diverse range of areas, from sports to politics and beyond. One study commonly referred to as the “They Saw a Game Study” had students from Dartmouth and Princeton watch the same recording of a heated football game between the two schools. The footage was the same for students from both schools. Despite this, students from each school reported seeing very different events. Princeton students believed Dartmouth had made twice as many infractions as Princeton while students from Dartmouth believed the teams were equally violent and both were to blame (Hastorf & Cantril, 1954). These findings, while for something as simple as a game of football, are certainly very important. Perhaps a similar effect exists in politics. Issues that seem to have a common sense resolution to you may be viewed entirely differently by someone else down to the level of perception of the problem itself. All this might lead you to ask how could this be.

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