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Pluralistic Ignorance. February 9, 2006. Class Overview. Continue discussion of norms to address 2 key questions. 1. Do norms influence behavior? If so, how? 2. How do people perceive norms and are their perceptions accurate? Present results from the in-class survey.

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pluralistic ignorance

Pluralistic Ignorance

February 9, 2006

class overview
Class Overview
  • Continue discussion of norms to address 2 key questions.

1. Do norms influence behavior? If so, how?

2. How do people perceive norms and are their perceptions accurate?

  • Present results from the in-class survey.
  • Take brief survey for class on Tuesday.
1 do norms actually influence behavior
1. Do Norms ACTUALLY influence behavior?
  • Many studies have shown that people do not always follow norms (e.g. littering).
  • Therefore, norms might be a weak predictor of actual behavior.
  • Question: Do norms exert more of an influence on behavior when they are activated or brought to attention?
study of littering behavior
Study of Littering Behavior
  • Norm Salience (Study 1):
    • Confederate carried a large handbill and threw it on the ground (High norm salience).
    • Handbill thrown into clean environment highlights the descriptive norm:

PEOPLE DO NOT LITTER HERE

    • Handbill thrown into littered environment highlights the descriptive norm:

PEOPLE USUALLY LITTER HERE

two important predictions
Two Important Predictions
  • Prediction 1:
    • Subjects who saw the confederate litter into the fully littered environment would litter more than those who did not see such littering.
  • Prediction 2:
    • Subjects who saw the confederate litter into the clean environment would be less likely to litter than those who did not see such littering.
  • Key Point: Contrary to conformity prediction.
results
Results
  • Confederate threw the handbill into the littered environment, thus calling attention to the descriptive norm:
    • IT IS OK TO LITTER HERE!
  • When littering norm was salient:
    • 54% of the subjects actually littered.
  • When littering norm was not salient:
    • Only 32% of the subjects of the subjects littered.
results continued
Results (continued)
  • Confederate threw the handbill into the clean environment, thus calling attention to the descriptive norm:
    • IT IS NOT OK TO LITTER HERE!
  • When anti-littering norm was salient:
    • Only 6% of the subjects littered.
  • When anti-littering norm was not salient:
    • 14% of the subjects littered.
more littering into clean environment
More Littering Into Clean Environment
  • From Cialdini, Reno & Kallgren, 1990
implications
Implications
  • Norms can often be very subtle.
    • Are you always aware the you are following a norm? Are there situations in which you are more aware than others? (E.g. Picnic vs. Funeral)
  • Norms have a powerful influence on behavior when people are focused on the norms in a given situation.
    • Think about different strategies for calling attention to norms (E.g. Shoes in someone’s entry hall during a party instead of the closet).
2 how are norms perceived and are these perceptions accurate
2. How are norms perceived and are these perceptions accurate?
  • Gambling in Elm Hollow (Shank, 1932)
    • Members of the community nearly unanimous in their support of the church’s restrictions on gambling, smoking and drinking.
    • Yet, the author often gambled, drank and smoked in the privacy of people’s homes.
  • Private attitudes did not reflect the public norm.
pluralistic ignorance1
Pluralistic Ignorance
  • Definition: Individuals make systematic errors in their perceptions of the other members of a collective and their relation to those members.
  • In other words,
    • No one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone else believes.
pluralistic ignorance at ilr
Pluralistic Ignorance at ILR?

Question: Do people see themselves as being more conservative than the average ILR student?

  • Survey of political attitudes
  • Scores above 3 represent a “Liberal” viewpoint.
  • Scores below 3 represent a “Conservative” viewpoint.
points of divergence
Points of Divergence
  • You thought that the norm was more liberal than it actually is on the following questions.

#1: “Too much power is concentrated in the hands of a few

large companies.”

#13: “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the

environment.”

#14: “We should pay less attention to problems overseas

and concentrate on problems here at home.”

#15: “I consistently vote for Democrats in most elections.”

origins of pluralistic ignorance
Origins of Pluralistic Ignorance
  • Minority-enforced social norms
    • Powerful, elite group can keep the majority in line (e.g. Methodist Church in Elm Hollow)
  • Prototypical social norms
    • Idealized behavior that differentiates one’s own group from another. (e.g. We are a party school)
  • Conservative lag
    • Private attitudes have shifted, but the public norm has remained the same (People change more quickly than groups).
consequences of pluralistic ignorance
Consequences of Pluralistic Ignorance
  • Mistaken feelings of alienation and deviance.
    • Gamblers felt estranged from the town without knowing that they were actually typical.
    • Students who felt deviant because of their views on alcohol were less likely to attend their college reunion.
    • Male students conformed to the misperceived norm by drinking more.
questions to consider
Questions to Consider
  • How can anyone know whether pluralistic ignorance exists?
    • Are there any beliefs at ILR that might not be as widely shared as everyone believes?
  • What would it take to identify pluralistic ignorance and bring the public norm back in line with private attitudes?
individual versus the group
Individual versus the Group
  • The “group” has a reality above and beyond the individuals that compose it.
    • A college campus can be more pro-alcohol than its students.
    • Two campuses can differ on their attitudes toward alcohol even if their students do not.
    • Norms on campus can change even if the attitudes of its students have not.
before you go
Before you go…
  • Complete brief survey about controversial issues for class on Tuesday.
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