FALSE CONSENSUS

False Consensus: The Role of Perceived Norms in Misguided Social Judgments

Abstract
False consensus is the phenomenon in which people overestimate the extent to which their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are shared by others. This phenomenon is caused by biased social cognition, in which individuals overestimate the prevalence of shared beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in a given population. This article examines the phenomenon of false consensus, including its causes and implications. The implications of false consensus are discussed in terms of the role of perceived norms in guiding social judgments, as well as the potential for false consensus to lead to group polarization and social conflict.

Introduction
False consensus is a cognitive bias in which people overestimate the extent to which their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are shared by others (Cialdini, 1983). This phenomenon is driven by biased social cognitive processes in which individuals overestimate the prevalence of shared beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in a given population (Kunda & Oleson, 1995). False consensus is an important phenomenon to understand because it has the potential to lead to misinformed social judgments and decisions, as well as group polarization and social conflict.

Causes of False Consensus
False consensus is caused by a variety of cognitive biases and processes, including the availability heuristic (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), the false-uniqueness effect (Mussweiler & Neumann, 2000), and the false-consensus effect (Ross, Greene, & House, 1977). The availability heuristic is a cognitive shortcut in which people estimate the likelihood of an event based on how easily it comes to mind. This cognitive shortcut often leads to overestimations of the prevalence of shared beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. The false-uniqueness effect is a cognitive bias in which individuals underestimate the extent to which their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are shared by others. This bias is often caused by the desire to be unique and different from the majority of the population. The false-consensus effect is a cognitive bias in which individuals overestimate the extent to which their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are shared by others. This bias is often caused by the desire to be accepted and liked by others.

Implications of False Consensus
False consensus has a number of implications for social judgments and decisions. The most important implication is that false consensus can lead to misinformed social judgments and decisions. For example, if a person overestimates the extent to which their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are shared by others, then they may make decisions that are not in line with the majority of the population. False consensus can also lead to group polarization and social conflict. Group polarization occurs when members of a group become more extreme in their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors due to the influence of false consensus (Myers & Lamm, 1976). This can lead to heightened social conflict, as people may be less likely to compromise or see alternative points of view.

Conclusion
False consensus is an important phenomenon to understand because it has the potential to lead to misinformed social judgments and decisions, as well as group polarization and social conflict. The causes of false consensus include the availability heuristic, the false-uniqueness effect, and the false-consensus effect. It is important to be aware of the potential effects of false consensus, as it can lead to misinformed social judgments and decisions, as well as group polarization and social conflict.

References
Cialdini, R. B. (1983). The psychology of persuasion. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Kunda, Z., & Oleson, K. (1995). Motivated inference: Self-serving generation and evaluation of causal theories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(3), 590–607.
Myers, D. G., & Lamm, H. (1976). The group polarization phenomenon. Psychological Bulletin, 83(4), 602–627.
Ross, L., Greene, D., & House, P. (1977). The “false consensus effect”: An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 13(3), 279–301.
Mussweiler, T., & Neumann, R. (2000). The false-uniqueness effect: Evidence for a metacognitive illusion. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26(3), 330–338.
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124–1131.

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