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False Consensus

Ronald E. Ostman


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False consensus is the inaccurate perception that our own beliefs are similar to those of others, when in fact they are not similar ( Ross et al. 1977 ), and the tendency to see our behavioral choices and judgments as common and situationally appropriate, while viewing alternative responses as uncommon, deviant, and/or inappropriate ( Mullen et al. 1985 ; Bosveld et al. 1994 ). Overestimation inaccuracies and deviance perceptions are based on a social judgment projection that opinions, beliefs, values, traits, and behaviors like one's own are more prevalent than they in fact are. This “egocentric self-anchor” or tendency to overestimate inaccuracies apparently exists even when the individual's attribute is in the minority ( Sanders & Mullen 1983 ; →  Social Judgment Theory ; Social Perception ). Two major predictors have been offered as a partial explanation for false consensus: the notion of self-serving bias and the notion of available heuristic. Self-serving bias refers to the human tendency to take personal credit for successes (as the result of our own disposition). It also refers to the individual's tendency to ignore, rationalize, and/or deny responsibility for failures, often viewed as dependent upon situation ( Sherman et al. 1984 ). We tend to overestimate the typicality of our undesirable actions or unsuccessful efforts. This cognitive bias is generalized to an ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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