Pluralistic ignorance.

June 2, 2019

Pluralistic ignorance is a perverse phenomenon where most people are against a certain social norm, but support it anyway because it is the socially acceptable thing to do.

The paper ‘Everybody’s doing it’: on the persistence of bad social norms (via @DegenRolf) proposes an interesting little experiment where they can test the effect of group size, conformity and information has on the prevalence of bad norms. Not surprisingly, it’s easier to put away bad norms in smaller groups and it’s very hard to break away from a bad norm that’s widely accepted.

Interestingly, pluralistic ignorance seems to be very dependent on incomplete information; when subjects were allowed to communicate, the bad norm went away very quickly. This gives me hope that we can fix a lot just by letting people speak out more.