Pluralistic Ignorance

A herdd of sheepsPLURALISTIC IGNORANCE refers to a social-psychology phenomenon in which people in a group guess wrongly about the group’s beliefs and values. This term was created by Floyd H. Allport and Daniel Katz in the 1930s. Also described as “no one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone believes,” pluralistic ignorance is a bias about a social group, held by the members of that group. The members of the group mistakenly infer that they feel differently from other group members, even though they feel similarly. Therefore, in a certain situation, despite rejecting a norm personally, the individuals go along with it because they assume, erroneously, that most others accept it. This misconception of others’ values causes the group members to act in ways that differ from what they actually believe in. As an example, imagine yourself attending a difficult lecture in college. After finishing the lecture, the professor asks if there are any doubts or questions. But you, despite having questions, don’t raise your hand because no one else has, because you assume that all other students have comprehended the lecture well, which might be just a misconception. The bystander effect can also be explained on the basis of pluralistic ignorance.

The Pratfall Effect

Originally defined by Elliot Aronson, the PRATFALL EFFECT is a phenomenon in Social Psychology that states that an individual’s perceived likability increases or decreases after he or she makes a mistake, depending on that individual’s perceived competence. Thus, when brilliant people err, they appear more attractive or likable as compared to those who don’t commit any or are “perfect” in every sense. On the other hand, a person who is perceived average in terms of competencies would be considered less attractive and likable after committing the mistake.

This means that while the likability of an individual whom people admire or really look up to increases after he or she makes a mistake, the reputation or attractiveness of a perceived average individual would be adversely affected by it.

Pratfall effect occurs because perfection appears threatening to most people and they find it hard to associate with others who are highly competent, perhaps more so than themselves. Imperfect or flawed individuals, on the other hand, seem approachable and a lot less intimidating. Since competent people making mistakes appear more human, they seem to be more attractive and likable.

Social Loafing

Social loafing is social psychology phenomenon where individuals tend to exert less effort on a task when they are working as a part of a group than when working on one’s own. The term was coined by US psychologist Bibb Latané in 1979. However evidence has shown that the phenomenon greatly reduced when individual contributions are made identifiable within the group.

Evidence suggests that social loafing tends to occur when individuals contribute to a group product, whereas, coaction effects (the effect on an individual’s task performance of the presence of other individuals engaged in the same activity) tend to occur when individuals work in groups to produce individual products.

Maximilien Ringelmann, a French agricultural engineer first investigated the phenomenon during 1913. In one of his experiments, students pulled as hard as they could on a rope, alone and in groups of two, three, and eight; the results showed that, on average, groups of three exerted only two and a half times as much force as an individual working alone, and groups of eight exerted less than four times the force of a single person.