Posts filed under ‘attribution bias’

Naive Realism

Now this is the hard work. Taking your knowledge that other people’s views are shaped by their experiences, that they have filters over what they are willing to consider as evidence, and pressures on them (from without and within) to stay consistent, and a) admitting that you are just the same and b) figuring out methods to analyse your own views/filters in light of that and c) actually consistently implementing those methods consistently and persistently.

If we DON’T do that, then we’re just wallowing in naive realism

Naïve realism is the conviction that one sees the world as it is and that when people don’t see it in a similar way, it is they that do not see the world for what it is. Ross characterized naïve realism as “a dangerous but unavoidable conviction about perception and reality”. The danger of naïve realism is that while humans are good in recognizing that other people and their opinions have been shaped and influenced by their life experiences and particular dogmas, we are far less adept at recognizing the influence our own experiences and dogmas have on ourselves and opinions. We fail to recognize the bias in ourselves that we are so good in picking out in others.


February 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm Leave a comment

Looking deep inside might tell you little…

A few months ago I read

“Alone in a Crowd of Sheep: Asymmetric Perceptions of Conformity and Their Roots in an Introspection Illusion” from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92, 4, 585-595
The take home message is that we – none of us –  are willing/able to admit that we are influenced by those around us/advertising/trends. Even when primed to do so, given permission by the experimenters.  It’s just too embarrassing to be one of the sheeple…


Study 1: Perceptions of Social Influence in Varied Domains

Study 2: Framing the Impact of Social Influence on Trendy Purchases

“Across the two desirability conditions, participants perceived themselves as having been less socially influenced than their peers in their iPod acquisitions. Moreover, this effect emerged both when conformity was described as undesirable and when it was described as desirable. Indeed, there was no difference between the two conditions in participants’ denial of their relative conformity.
Participants in this study thought that their own trendy purchases were less the result of social influence than the purchases of their fellow students. And, their denials of personal conformity persisted even when that conformity was framed as socially desirable. The results of this study, combined with those of Study 1, suggest that social desirability alone does not fully account for people’s blind spot to their conformity. We suggest that another reason is that people consider introspective information more than observable behaviour when assessing their own (relative to others’) conformity, despite the frequently nonconscious nature of social influence. In the studies that follow, we more directly test this hypothesis about underlying mechanism.

Translation: (We think) we know what’s going on in our own heads. We assume other people are more likely to be dupes. Nobody likes to think they are victims of larger social forces…

We have suggested that the observed self-other asymmetry in perceptions of conformity and susceptibility to social influence is afforded by a self-other asymmetry in the cognitive processes that people use to make judgments about self versus other. We refer to this latter asymmetry as an introspection illusion. It involves a tendency for actors, more than observers, to focus on introspective information and neglect behavioural information. Several studies in this article provide evidence for this illusion and for its influence on perceptions of conformity.

The introspection illusion involves a tendency for people to weight thoughts more for self than others and to weight behavior less. Because conformity is generally defined in terms of behavior, people’s strong reliance on their thoughts at the expense of consulting their actions is noteworthy. By disregarding their behavior, our participants failed to detect something about themselves that most outsiders could easily see. Although considerations of introspections versus actions are often inextricably linked, in this research, participants’ willingness to ignore their own behavior is perhaps even more surprising than their faith in the value of their introspections. Although the term introspection illusion emphasizes self-other differences in the faith that people place in their introspections, a necessary component of it involves the neglect with which people treat their own behaviors. The concepts of an introspection illusion and of what might be called “behavioral disregard” are in this way two sides of a coin.

“In future research it would be interesting to examine whether people in more interdependent cultures such as East Asian cultures, in which conscious thoughts about conformity are more common, would be less likely to deny their own susceptibility to social influence.”

Take home – “Know thyself” is trickier than just lookin’ inside…


Study 3: The Introspection Illusion and Perceptions of Peer Influence

Study 4: Available Introspections and Perceptions of Voting with the Party

This isn’t just about willingness/ability to attribute false consciousness to others. Trickier to ‘admit’ false consciousness in self!!


the results “suggest that the relevant asymmetry in conformity perception is likely to involve an interplay of motivational processes (involving a desire to disavow negative traits) and cognitive processes (involving weighting of introspective vs behavioral information). Though our participants were likely motivated to see themselves in a positive light by denying their susceptibility to unwanted social influence (and, perhaps, claiming their susceptibility to desirable social influence), their efforts were likely constrained by their illusions about the value of their own introspections.

Questions; What are the stories we tell ourselves (and each other) about our place in the Universe? Why do we tell one story over another? Where do we get these stories from? What facts of biography, sociography, geography, demography make some stories a more attractive/”better fit” than others? Do stories change over time? Why? How? Which stories are adaptive, or maladaptive?


We used to have a store of stories to draw upon (Christianity, even Shakespeare). “The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak” etc. Now what do we have? Bland sitcoms and half-remembered sporting events. Where’s the common narrative(s), the shared metaphors. Gone, baby, gone…


Further reading

Kruger, J and Gilovich T (2004) Actions, intentions, and self-assessment: The road to self-enhancement is paved with good intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 328-339. (I had a look at the abstract – basically, we cut ourselves a lot of slack for our (not done) good intentions.  We aren’t so generous with other people. Colour me amazed…)

November 25, 2010 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

For attribution?

This from wikipedia…

In psychology and cognitive science, the positivity effect is the tendency of people, when evaluating the causes of the behaviors of a person they like or prefer, to attribute the person’s inherent disposition as the cause of their positive behaviors and the situations surrounding them as the cause of their negative behaviors. The positivity effect is the inverse of the negativity effect, which is found when people evaluate the causes of the behaviors of a person they dislike. Both effects are attributional biases.

We cut our friends a lot of slack. We judge our enemies’ same actions far more harshly. So it goes…

November 25, 2010 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

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