Social psychologists have defined pluralistic ignorance as the case in which people think that everyone else is interpreting a given situation in a certain way, when in fact they are not. For example, when people are watching a scenario as a group, they will assume that nothing is wrong based on how those around them are reacting or behaving.
A certain blogger describes a scenario where pluralistic ignorance was inherent. While in the 6th grade there was a boy who was always the class clown. So one time during a friendly match in the school, the boy dropped down in the middle of the field and started convulsing. Most people including the blogger were not sure how to react.
The writer as well as everyone else at the pitch and on the bleachers appeared confused on how what to do and they all looked at each other for answers. Everyone probably assumed that the next person was thinking that the boy being a class clown was pulling just another stunt on them. They all seemed unconcerned, but this was just as a result of everyone thinking that the next person was unconcerned and so felt the need to react the same. Everyone behaved as though it was not an emergency.
Human beings are inclined to behave according to social norms. So in the event that the norm is passive acceptance, it is very unlikely that an individual will stand out and react differently. The reality however is that the outward reaction does not really express the inward concern. People will simply decide not to react because of what they perceive to be the social norm.
This process does not take place consciously. Every individual will look to the next person in the group in order to get an interpretation of the scenario. People in the group will tend to mimic from each other without knowing it.
People will rarely base their actions on their initial instinct when in a group. They will second guess and look to other members to define the ambiguity of the situation. Most times this ends disastrous when someone who truly needs help is ignored because of pluralistic ignorance.
The idea of pluralistic ignorance was bore from series of research conducted on different incidences. The ideas stems from the bystander effect which states that people are likely to have a passive reaction when they are in a group and facing an emergency situation.
The bystander effect was discovered by two psychologists who questioned the reaction of a group of neighbours who failed to adhere to another neighbour’s cry for help. As a woman was being stabbed outside her home, she cried out to her neighbours for help but no one budged. The horrifying murder shook the whole of New York and generated diverse views.
However, scientists claim that anyone in that situation is likely to react in the same way. Pluralistic ignorance comes in to play because everyone assumed the other did not feel the need to help and so they all stayed indoors.
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