Naive Realism

Untitled by J Scott

Why is it so frustrating when someone disagrees with you? Often because YOU KNOW that you’re right and the other person is wrong. Or at least you’re sure that you’re more informed. If only everyone could understand the world the way you do, things would run a lot smoother!

It turns out that all of us (knowingly or unknowingly) think pretty highly of ourselves and our own ability to understand the world. Our confidence in our own judgments and experiences leads to a perspective of naive realism: that we, unlike other people, are unbiased and see the world as it really is.

Think back to election season. Tensions were high, and supporters of opposing camps fervently fought to defend their positions. How did you feel? Regardless of your stance, you likely felt that, in an ideal world, everyone would vote like you. Not just because it would be nice to have everyone agree with you, but because you knew yourself to be a thoughtful and reasonable person, and believed that your conclusions were the most logical, and unbiased decisions a voter could make. You might have also felt, perhaps with pity, that voters with other convictions were biased by differences in their upbringing, education, culture, or state of mind. You may have reasoned that other voters did not have access to the same information you did, but felt confident that, if they did, they would have come to the same conclusions as you. This feeling is not unique, and naïve realism describes our false perception that people should generally agree with us, because we believe that we have the knowledge and experience to hold the most unbiased understanding of the world.


Ali Horowitz is a PhD student in psychology at Stanford University. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester in 2008. She is especially fascinated by language, and how children (and adults!) reason about communication. She also enjoys singing, crafting, and animal documentaries.




comments powered by Disqus

Get the best

Get monthly email updates with the best from The Concepts Project. No spam, ever.

Contact us

Get in touch, we'd love to hear from you: theconceptsproject@gmail.com

Greatest Hits


Thinking At The Margin: what to do when you drop your piggy bank in the middle of the forest.

Strategy and Backward Induction: how to win a week of lunches from your unsuspecting colleagues.

What is Multiple Imputation?: when statisticians turn into detectives.

On Shuttle Drivers, Chocolate and NP Completeness: a deliciously difficult problem in computer science.

Rest and Digest vs Fight or Flight: how your body (and medications) help with fighting tigers.

Sites we like


William Shaw, writing about Politics, Theatre, Sci-fi… Mainly Sci-fi.

Better Explained, for maths explanations that click.

Science Non Fiction, a graduate student perspective on science in the news and in our lives.

Clearer Thinking, learn to think more clearly and make better decisions.

EconScribe.org, working to improve the quality of research communications.

Jess Whittlestone, a blog about decision making and behavioural science.