False Consensus Effect is an egotistic bias, causing one to believe that others in a group will respond to a situation in exactly the same way as oneself (Dawes, 1987). For example, assuming that people hold the same beliefs and opinions towards specific behaviours and attitudes.
One study into false consensus effect was conducted by Ross, Greene and House (1976), which provided evidence for the existence of the false consensus. In this study participants were asked to read about situations in which a conflict occurred, and then told two alternative ways of responding. They were then asked to do three things, 1. Guess which options other people would choose 2. Say which option they would choose, and 3. Describe the attributes of the person who would choose each of the two options.
The results from this study indicated more people assumed others would do the same as them, regardless of which of the two responses they chose themselves. This shows what Ross et al (1976) described as the ‘false consensus’ effect – the idea that we each think other people think in the same way we do, when actually they often do not.
However, Suls and Wan (1987) state that there are factors that influence the way we view others. People possessing undesirable attributes overestimate consensus, whereas people holding desirable attributes underestimate consensus, with the latter pattern being a form of false uniqueness.
According to Marks and Miller (1987) almost every psychologist has, at some point, found it difficult to explain a study’s findings because they assume that others think in the same way as they do. For example, being unable to understand how someone could misinterpret an incredibly easy question.
In conclusion, it is clear that the false consensus effect exists, to some extent. For further conclusions to be drawn, more modern experiments need to be conducted. Many of the studies were carried out in the late 80’s, where it has been suggested most people thought less independently (Duffy et al, 1999). This means that in the 21st Century, people may be less prone to the false consensus effect.
Dawes, M. R. (1987) Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol 25 (1) 1-17 doi: 10.1016/0022-1031(89)90036-X
Duffy, M. L., Jones, J., Thomas, S.W. (1999) Intervention in School and Clinic, Vol. 35 no. 1 34-37 doi: 10.1177/105345129903500106I
Marks, G. Miller, N. (1987) Ten years of research on the false-consensus effect: An empirical and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 102(1), 72-90. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.102.1.72
Ross, L., Greene, D., House, P. (1976) Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol 13, 279-301
Suls, J., Wan, C. K. (1987) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 52 (1), 211-217. doi: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.11