Naïve Realism

Naïve realism, in social psychology, refers to the human intuitive sense that we observe or perceive the world in an unbiased way and objectively—“as it is”—instead of knowing that we are seeing the world from our own perspective, that is, as a subjective construction of the world and as an interpretation of the actuality.

This phenomenon has two significant implications: One, that others are perceiving and seeing the world in the manner as we are seeing it, as long as others are exposed to same information and are thinking rationally. Two, we tend to believe that others who are seeing the world differently must be the ones who are biased, uniformed, ignorant, unreasonable, or distorted. Famous line of George Carlin summarises the concept, “Have you ever noticed that everyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

The term naïve realism was first introduced by social psychologist Lee Ross and his colleagues in 1990s. The Handbook of Social Psychology acknowledged naïve realism as one of “four hard-won insights about human perception, thinking, motivation and behavior that … represent important, indeed foundational, contributions of social psychology.” Naïve realism provides a theoretical foundation for many other cognitive biases, which refers to systematic errors in thinking, and decision making.

Ross, L., Lepper, M., & Ward, A. History of Social Psychology: Insights, Challenges, and Contributions to Theory and Application. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gillbert, G. Lindzey, & A. E. Jongsma (2010) Handbook of Social Psychology. Vol. 1. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley