A message to our readers
In this world of spin and counterspin, this world where people seem to care more about their side looking good and the other side looking bad than about the truth, you are one of the regretfully rare people out there trying to wade through the mass of distortions and flawed thinking to figure out how things really are. Others are all too willing to see the world as they would like it to be, as they are swayed away from the truth by their own biases, preconceptions, self-interest, and ideology, and they are all too unwilling to accept the facts for what they are and to work through a sound argument. But not you. Though you’re not magically immune from these human limitations, by being reasonable and open-minded you’re able to keep their influences to a minimum and to base your positions on clear thought and the evidence at hand.
Now, you don’t claim to be perfect, but when you do make mistakes they are often because you did not have all of the best evidence readily at hand, and you are usually able to recognize, correct, and learn from the (relatively few) errors that you have made in your reasoning and judgment. Most other people, either from their biases or from (shall we say) a lack of dedication to figuring out the truth, often prove unable to come to reasonable conclusions even when they have clear evidence and clear arguments before them, and they tend to make the same kinds of mistakes over and over, no matter how often their errors are pointed out.
Does all of this sound about right to you? Then you, sir or madam, are a naive realist. What is naive realism? Social psychologists describe naive realism as the worldview characterized by the acceptance of these three tenets:
1. I see the world as it really is, with my beliefs following from the evidence I have about the world in a relatively straightforward and unmediated way.
2. If other people have access to the same information and interpret and process it in a relatively reasonable and open-minded way, then they will come to the same conclusions as me.
3. If others claim not to share my views, that’s either because a) they haven’t had access to the same information, b) they haven’t thought clearly enough to reason properly from evidence to conclusions, c) their views are being distorted by some personal bias or ideology, or d) they are not being honest about what they believe.
If you have been nodding along to these tenets, you may be wondering, is “naive realism” such a bad thing? If I really am more dedicated to the pursuit of truth and more discerning than most people, do I really deserve to be called “naive”? Well, there are a lot of people out there who accept (more or less) the tenets of naive realism, have access to the same evidence, and have different views. I suppose that it’s possible that you’re the one who has managed to get most everything right. But you should be at least a little bit concerned that, perhaps, you have been somewhat overconfident in your ability to reason in a properly dispassionate way from your experiences to each of your beliefs, without distortion or distraction from the biases and preconceptions that human beings seem prone to accumulate. And, perhaps, you have been a bit too harsh and disparaging of those who have come to hold views that differ from yours.
It’s something to think about, at least.