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Pluralistic Ignorance

 

Explanations > Theories > Pluralistic Ignorance

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

Groups all have norms of attitude and behavior which are shared and which help form the identity of the group. Adopting these norms, even if you do not agree with them,  is a part of the individual sacrifice that people accept as a price of group membership.

Pluralistic ignorance occurs where the majority of individuals in a group assume that most of their others are different in some way, whilst the truth is that they are more similar than they realize. They thus will conform with supposed norms. When most people do this, the supposed norm becomes the norm.

These situations typically occur when the norms are older than all members of the group or when one member or a small group is dominant and can force their attitudes on the rest of the group. 

Research

Prentice and Miller knew that there was abnormally high levels of student alcohol consumption at Princeton, through various eating clubs, rituals and parties that had led to a number of deaths and injuries. When they questioned students, they found many who assumed that others wanted to partake whilst they did not. Their were worried about possible consequences but still joined in the celebrations for fear of rejection.

Example

When a lecturer asks a class 'Any questions?' there will often be a deafening silence, even if nobody understands. 

So what?

Using it

Set up norms within a group and act as if everyone believes in them. 

Defending

If you disagree with a group norm, quietly ask other members of the group whether they really believe in the norm. 

See also

Bystander Effect, Groupthink, Hostile Media Phenomenon, Social Identity Theory, Social Norms

Christmas compliance

http://www.valt.helsinki.fi/staff/tuomela/papers/Shared.pdf

References

Allport (1933), Prentice and Miller (1993)

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