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Social projection and the illusory consensus

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Christine deRoux

on 4 October 2012

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Transcript of Social projection and the illusory consensus

The Spiral of Silence and the Illusory Consensus effect Literally, it is the absolute agreement of all parties on a particular subject
Ex: Ms. Bev asks her class which movie they would like to watch for the next 4 classes, and everyone wants to see Twilight
A true consensus is a rare occurence in practice
Most decision-making groups abandon this method early on, favoring majorities What is consensus? “I do, and anybody who says he doesn't is lying.” All toddlers are born in this state, unable to comprehend the possibility of others having different opinions until about age 4.
Ex: A toddler, after being shown that an adult prefers brocoli over cookies, will consistently hand cookies to the adult when asked to give them one of the two.
Around age 4, most people develop the ability to acknowledge differences in thoughts and perceptions between themselves and others.

However, the understanding of disagreement is often abandoned, well into adulthood, in favor of a simple and fabricated consensus. Projection of Personal Beliefs The False Consensus Effect A form of bias, rooted in the tencency of people to assume that their own thoughts and behaviors represent an inflated occurence in the population
This effect often does not assume true consensus on all subjects, but it does warp perceptions of correlations with one's own beliefs Need to be in the mainstream
Fear of Isolation
Selective Exposure + Availability
Opinions derived from similar data
Simplify decision-making Motivations The behavioral pattern of exposing one's self to experiences that reinforce existing beliefs
Often subconcious
Ex: Jane Doe is strongly Pro-Life, so she only reads articles supporting that ideal Selective exposure: http://faculty.som.yale.edu/keithchen/negot.%20papers/Gilovich_DifConstFalseCons90.pdf

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/theory/spiral.html Availability: The result of a compromised ability or lack of means to obtain new information
Ex: Before the agricultural revolution, many peoples knew only of nomadic life, as the idea of settling and farming was new and unavailable. Similar Data Similar Result Common assumption presuming that observers looking at the same data will derive the same result as one's self
Ex: Looking at the same statistic, one party may see a correlation between faminine empowerment and growing divorce rates, while another may see a causation. Each would assume that either the opposition is looking at different data, or simply assume that everyone who uses the sama data is on their side. Easy Decisions The false consensus proves useful when making decisions that involve complex, multi-faceted variables.
When test subjects are questioned about their own beliefs and their estimates of others' beliefs, social projection emerged much more often when the questions were vague and general than when they were specific and cencrete.
Ex: Most people do believe in God and creationism, so I'll focus on that instead of the theory of evolution.
The "appropriate" solution is made simple by using consensus to flatten opposing conjecture. IMPACT The prevalance of false consensus poses a number of problems to society
dismissal of dissent
blindly accepted majorities
warped definitions of consensus in psychology
improvised statistics
reinforcement of personal beliefs The idea of the false consensus is sometimes derived from the assumption that all perties should be drawing the same conclusions from the same sources, dismissing dissent on the grounds that those in disagreement are not smart enough to draw the right conclusions, or are irresponsibly gathering data from the wrong sources. Dismissal of Dissent Occurs when enough people insist on the existance of their false majorities that the general public comes to agree that a general consensus exists
Often encourages the public to side with the percieved majority, reinforcing the existance of a consensus
Discourages minorities from expressing their beliefs because they are not seen as mainstream
All leading to the Noelle-Neumann Spiral of Silence Generally Accepted Majorities Spurred mainly by... obviously not a "clear"option to everyone Do you even know what impeachment means? Yes, because everyone imagines W. as a satan-like, disgruntled imp. Applying an assumed consensus to a political cartoon aimed at a large audience is a great example of why this bias in particular is a hazard to both persuasion and effective discourse. These two, with their assumptions of general agreement with their viewpoint, will likely never convince others of their validity, nor will they be open to new ideas they view as in the minority. Klansmen may be reluctant to believe that some of their members see things differently. The Media And this. The Spiral of Silence A feature of the false consensus effect that is self-sustaining.
Occurs when all the factors in this bias work in concert to propogate the bias. This is how it works. This could be among either a member of that percieved majority, or a dissenter. It begins with a sense of majority. One idea stands above all others, in the perception of an individual. Then, the driving forces of the spiral set in. The individual feels the need to be in the percieved mainstream. They have a fear of being isolated The last thing they want is to be so different from the norm, that they are rejected by society. So they begin to mimic what they see They accept and subscribe to the norm. And begin to propogate those same norms, Ridiculing any dissenters And reinforcing the false majority. Discordant voices are silenced. And what was once a very noisy minority that few believed in, has now become the self-perpetuating and celebrated norm. The spiral repeats and intensifies And become all-consuming.
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