Illustration: AFSM

“I think like this, so the whole world must also think in the same way. If others do not see the way I do, they are grossly mistaken!” This is the mindset many of us have (mostly subconsciously). Stanford University’s Ross and Ward [1] outline this concept, coining the phrase ‘naïve realism’, They describe the concept as follows:

  1. That I see entities and events as they are in objective reality, and that my social attitudes, beliefs, preferences, priorities, and the like follow from a relatively dispassionate, unbiased and essentially ‘unmediated’ apprehension of the information or evidence at hand.
  2. That other rational social perceivers generally will share my reactions, behavior and opinions—provided they have had access to the same information that gave rise to my views, and provided that they too have processed that information in a reasonably thoughtful, and open-minded fashion.
  3. That the failure of a given individual or group to share my views arises from one of three possible sources:
  • The individual or group in question may have been exposed to a different sample of information than I was (in which case, provided that the other party is reasonable and open-minded, the sharing or pooling of information should lead us to reach an agreement);
  • The individual or group in question may be lazy, irrational, or otherwise unable or unwilling to proceed in a normative fashion from objective evidence to reasonable conclusions; or
  • The individual or group in question may be biased (either in interpreting the evidence or in proceeding from evidence to conclusions) by ideology, self-interest, or some other distorting personal influence.

There is plenty of room for individual emphasis, interpretation, and realization—based on inspiration or practical considerations, and a combination of these.

“Personally, I prefer the term ‘subjective realism’ to the more pejorative ‘naïve realism’; for me, ‘naïve’ tends to make this syndrome sound undesirable. Rather, thinking in these ways is natural—it is clear that this influence is frequently at work in most people’s lives—the only undesirable part is when we don’t recognize it in others or ourselves. Indeed, if we look at Moore’s five causes of conflict [2], it’s reasonable to say that subjective realism can play a part in nearly all of them. We see the world differently from how others see it, and we are often willing to enter into a dispute because of that.

Still, even within this narrow definition, there is plenty of room for individual emphasis, interpretation, and realization—based on inspiration or practical considerations, and a combination of these. Disputes arise out of these differences, ignited by subjective realism and stoked by the age we live in.

[1] Ross, Lee and Ward, Andrew. “Naive Realism: Implications for Social Conflict and Misunderstanding” URL: www.stanford.edu/group/sccn/general/Naive%20Realism.pdf (1995)

[2] Moore, Christopher W. The Mediation Process 3rd Edition San Francisco: Jossey Bass 2003

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