Pluralistic ignorance

We all believe that we all believe what we do not believe

Placeholder. In social norms what if the norm is not what we all personally believe we should do, but rather waht we all believe we all believe we should do but in fact few of us believe

To discover:

  • Is that keyword I have seen floating about, the “spiral of silence”, the same thing?
  • Rhetorical uses of claims to pluralistic ignorance.
  • Relationship to majority illusions.
  • Origin of concept. American 1970s racial segregation research?
  • Heterogenaeity. What if the beliefs are truly synchronised in some portion of the population but not in others?

Reed College’s surveys are fun here. Although they focus on the mean on the ordinal scale which is methodologically lazy and misses some possible interesting phenomena. Anyway, the data has lots of sex in so it’s interesting. let us quote them:

Simply put, pluralistic ignorance occurs when individual members of a group (such as a school, a team, a workplace, or a group of friends) believe that others in their group hold comparably more or less extreme attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. When many members of any one group hold the same misperception about the group norm, this norm ceases to represent the actual composite beliefs and attitudes of the group. In other words, there is an actual group norm, comprised of the actual average attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of all individuals in the group, and there is a perceived norm, which is the group-wide assumption of extremity in the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of other group members.


Lambert, Tracy A., Arnold S. Kahn, and Kevin J. Apple. 2003. “Pluralistic Ignorance and Hooking Up.” The Journal of Sex Research 40 (2): 129–33.
O’Gorman, Hubert J., and Stephen L. Garry. 1976. “Pluralistic Ignorance—A Replication and Extension.” Public Opinion Quarterly 40 (4): 449–58.
Prentice, Deborah A., and Dale T. Miller. 1996. “Pluralistic Ignorance and the Perpetuation of Social Norms by Unwitting Actors.” In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, edited by Mark P. Zanna, 28:161–209. Academic Press.

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