You Are Not So Smart

In psychology, they call it naive realism, the tendency to believe that the other side is wrong simply because they are misinformed.

According to Lee Ross, co-author of the new book, The Wisest One in the Room, naive realism has three tenets. One, you tend to believe that you arrived at your political opinions after careful, rational analysis through unmediated thoughts and perceptions. Two, since you are extremely careful and devoted to sticking to the facts and thus free from bias and impervious to persuasion, anyone else who has read the things you have read or seen the things you have seen will naturally see things your way, given that they’ve pondered the matter as thoughtfully as you have. And three, if anyone does disagree with your political opinions it must be because they simply don’t have all the facts yet.

Since this is the default position most humans take when processing a political opinion, when confronted with people who disagree, you tend to assume there must be a rational explanation. Usually, that explanation is that the other side is either lazy or stupid or corrupted by some nefarious information-scrambling entity like cable news, a blowhard pundit, a charming pastor or a lack thereof.


Ross and Ward concluded that naive realism leads people to approach political arguments with the confidence that “rational open-minded discourse” will naturally lead to a rapid narrowing of disagreement, but that confidence usually short lived. Instead, they say our “repeated attempts at dialogue with those on the ‘other side’ of a contentious issue make us aware that they rarely yield to our attempts at enlightenment; nor do they yield to the efforts of articulate, fair-minded spokespersons who share our views.” In other words, it’s naive to think evidence presented from the sources you trust will sway your opponents because when they do the same, it never sways you.

Listen in this episode as legendary psychologist Lee Ross explains how to identify, avoid, and combat this most pernicious of cognitive mistakes.

Direct download: 062_-_Naive_Realism_-_Lee_Ross.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 2:28am EST