The ‘false consensus’ effect

Professor Lee Roth enrolled a bunch of Stanford students in a psychology experiment.

He asked them if they could wear a sandwich board saying ‘Eat at Joe’s’ around their necks and walk around their campus. The students were told that they would be participating in a communication study and that they would learn something useful at the end of it.

About half of them agreed to wear the board while the other half declined. However, Roth also asked both groups of students what they thought their peers would do. The ones who wore the sign thought that 65% of the other students would wear the sign too. The ones who refused to wear the sign thought that 69% of other students would refuse too.

In other words, students in both groups thought that the majority of their peers are like them. What’s more? Each group of students had pretty unpleasant things to say about the other group. The ones who agreed to wear the boards thought the ones who refused to be cowardly. The ones who refused thought of the other group as show-offs.

Our minds are adept at extrapolating our own experience to derive a skewed picture of how the world works.

Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. – Morgan House.

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