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False Uniqueness

Ronald E. Ostman


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A person expresses false uniqueness, an inaccurate social comparison, when that individual perceives that differences between his or her own attitudes, abilities, and behaviors and those of others are larger than they really are ( Suls & Wan 1987 ). This difference is thought especially prevalent when one's own behavior is desirable and the individual estimates the prevalence of others exhibiting, or willing to exhibit, the same or similar behaviors ( Monin & Norton 2003 ) (→  Pluralistic Ignorance ; Pluralistic Ignorance and Ideological Biases ). The result is an underestimate of how common one's desirable attributes and successful behaviors are in relation to those of others and one essentially casts oneself in the role of “better than thou.” Historical treatises stimulating investigation of false uniqueness can be found in Festinger (1954) (→  Festinger, Leon ), Schachter (1959) , and Fields and Schuman (1976–1977) . Their various approaches to explaining the human mind focused on the social comparisons that an individual makes between self and others. According to Fields & Schuman, a particular problem humans face during this process is that direct information on others’ views may be absent, unavailable, equivocal, or for some reason not sufficiently compelling. Nonetheless, humans do not let informational deficiencies prevent them from estimating what others ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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