Can you know the truth?
What if someone else’s truth is different from yours?
Who is right or wrong?
It might seem like a simple question, but humans are inherently bad at putting themselves in the perspective of other people.
One of the cognitive biases which drives this is something called naïve realism.
According to research, naïve realism shows that people believe that they see the world around us objectively, and that people who disagree with them must be uninformed, irrational, or biased.
Put simply, if we know that what we believe is true, then other people must be flawed in their thinking if they don’t believe the same thing.
The concept was popularised by Lee Ross in the 1990s, consolidating research from a number of fields
The three major beliefs people have which make up this bias are that they:
- Believe that they see the world objectively and without bias
- Expect that others will come to the same conclusions, so long as they are exposed to the same information and interpret it in a rational manner
- Assume that others who do not share the same views must be ignorant, irrational, or biased
Unfortunately, we already know that even if people believe they are not biased, they are. This is known as the bias blind spot, meaning we are all more biased than we believe.
Examples of naïve realism from research studies include:
- People watching a controversial 1951 American college football game between Dartmouth and Princeton gave different factual summaries of what happened in the game, depending on which team they were a fan of
- People have an egocentric bias which leads to them believing that other people will agree with them without checking, proven in 1977 in a series of experiments around a false consensus effect
- A 1990 study by Elizabeth Newton had “tappers” tapping the tune of famous songs, and “listeners” across the table trying to guess the song based just on the rhythm of the taps they heard. The tappers thought the listeners would guess about 50% of their songs correctly, but the listeners in reality only guessed 2.5%
Impact on innovation and creativity
Naïve realism can have a large impact innovation teams, especially when it comes to getting and processing feedback on an idea.
Teams developing an idea often put their blood, sweat and tears into developing a solution, only to find out when they release it that the market is not as interested as they were expected to be.
The development team then tries to figure out why the market is “wrong” to not be excited about the solution. Perhaps they just “don’t get it”, and need more marketing to be convinced. Or more features need to be added. These teams are often deep in egocentric bias.
When in reality, the perception of the people in the market is completely valid for them.
If they don’t care, there is nothing wrong with them. They are not necessarily biased, uninformed or ignorant. They just have a different view.
Understanding this can help innovation teams take a step back, and approach the challenge in a more unbiased, neutral way.
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