False Consensus Effect: Psychological Factor And Critical Analysis

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Question :



The assignment is an essay and your task is to select ONE of the questions listed on the next page and write a response to it. Each question is linked to at least one of the topics covered in 2008PSY.

Your essay needs to:

  • convey the knowledge and ideas that have been established regarding the social psychological model or phenomenon central to the research question
  • describe, summarise, and integrate existing theory and research
  • highlight strengths and weaknesses of the current theory and research
  • apply theory and research to a practical issue
  • draw conclusions regarding the current status of theory and research   

The questions below have been structured to help you achieve these aims. The questions are like a simple recipe for a literature review: introduce; describe phenomenon/model; review the relevant literature; discuss application; conclude.

Answer the whole question.


Choose only ONE (1) of these to answer

  1. The false consensus effect (Ross, Greene, & House, 1976) is a phenomenon that focuses on the extent to which individuals view their own attitudes and behaviours as typical. Since it was initially proposed, a large number of studies and literature reviews concerning the false consensus effect have been published.  Describe the false consensus effect.  Present and critically evaluate evidence for and against this effect.  Discuss the ways in which scientific knowledge regarding the false consensus effect could contribute to a program aimed at improving health-related behaviours (e.g., physical activity, drug and alcohol use). 
  2. The phenomenon of cognitive dissonance (Aronson, 1992; Festinger, 1957) occurs when people are forced to hold opposing cognitions or behaviours. Since Festinger's early work, a large number of studies and literature reviews concerning dissonance have been published. Describe the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. Present and critically evaluate evidence for and against the effect. Discuss the ways in which scientific knowledge regarding cognitive dissonance could be used in a program to reduce the use of all forms of plastic bags in supermarkets.

Note:  Given the difficulty of obtaining Festinger’s (1957) monograph, Aronson’s (1992) paper has been set as the starting reference as it provides a good summary.


Note that you will need to carry out independent library research in order to develop your response to your selected research question. As each question relates to a topic that will be treated in the 2008PSY course, a good starting place for your research will be your textbook. Your reading here will provide you with some general background relevant to your chosen research question. In addition, it will provide you with some starting references that you will be able to follow up in your literature search.

There are a number of important points to recognise in researching this assignment:

  1. You will not be able to answer your chosen question by simply drawing upon your life experiences. Nor will you be able to find an answer to your chosen question in the textbook or using just a single research article. Rather, you will have to research the topic extensively and build an answer based upon your reading. This is an assignment that requires a review of the literature.  Your essay will draw upon both the relevant theory and empirical research relating to your selected topic – primarily via journal articles and chapters in edited books (not textbooks).
  2. The expectation is that you will need to do some library research to inform your essay. Psycinfo is a good database to commence your search. You can limit your search to certain years or by other criteria to save you getting 1000s of hits! You will need to start your assignment soon in order to have sufficient time to carry out the library research. This is not an assignment that you will be able to start and complete on the night before or even 2-3 nights before the submission date! 
  3. It is simply not possible to specify the minimum number of readings that will provide you with an adequate answer to your selected topic. Whereas the correct answer to this question is, “as many as it takes”, you can anticipate that it will be at least in the range of 8-15 for a passable essay (and very likely at least in the 10-20 range for essays that receive the higher marks). These ranges overlap. This is not a black and white question. The topics have been chosen from areas that will provide you with plenty of research to consider. There are no magic papers in any of them. For each question, the basic paper has been cited for you as a starting point. Please see the References below.
  4. Keep the full references of the material you read so you can cite them properly.


Each of the questions calls for you to:

1) Outline a phenomenon or model in social psychology.

2) Draw together and critique the relevant theoretical and research literature.

3) To apply (again, critically) these insights to a relevant application.

The literature is the raw material – it is like data. You may have some initial perspectives in mind, but the literature will ultimately support these or not. In this sense, writing a literature review is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, except that when you start you don’t know how many pieces there are, or how they might fit together, or what the finished jigsaw looks like. These latter things become apparent as you read. This is the challenge, as well as the fun!

There are also some general points on essay structure and technique to be aware of in writing the assignment:

  1. As implied above, when you believe that you have developed a good feel for the research, and you have located sufficient bits of evidence to build a case, you need to draw the bits together so that they make a coherent and persuasive argument.
  2. In presenting your argument, it should be structured with an introduction, a body and a summary/conclusion. (Don’t use these terms as headings. Headings are related to the actual content.)
  3. The introduction should seek to locate the reader in the topic area, giving a brief overview of the breadth of the topic, and the sorts of issues that have been of importance to researchers. You should then focus on your selected research topic, specifying the particular issues/sub-topics that you intend to address, and in what order. The section of each question that asks you to Describe... will be an integral part of the introduction to your essay.
  4. The body of the assignment should systematically work through the series of sub- topics or issues that are relevant to your topic. Note that it assists your presentation, and the reader, if you use subheadings where these are appropriate. It is also useful to introduce each sub-topic and to draw each sub-topic discussion together with a summary/conclusion. The Present and critically evaluate evidence... section of each question will be an integral part of the body. Clearly, there will be a lot of time and effort in this section.   
  5. The application section (also part of the body) of the assignment should be informed by the insights you have derived from the critical evaluation of the literature you have conducted and presented above. Each question contains a final Discuss the ways... part that asks you in some way to comment upon and evaluate applications of the relevant model or phenomenon to some specific issue. It is the chance to show how you can apply social psychological insights to a novel situation or domain.
  6. The summary/conclusion section of your assignment should draw together the points that you have made in order to provide your definitive response to the topic based upon your evaluation of the research literature. In addition, it is valuable to be able to point out where there are gaps in the literature, in relation to the topic area, that require further research.
  7. Since your response will draw heavily upon the existing theoretical and research literature, it is expected that you will cite your source material, as appropriate. The rule is that you provide a reference(s) in the text when you paraphrase material from a book or research article. In addition, you are required to place particular sentences and paragraphs that you have extracted from a source(s) within quotation marks, together with the reference and page numbers in the text. However, it is expected that you will mostly paraphrase arguments and research findings from books and research articles, rather than quote exact sentences and words. Quotations are used only when it is especially important to link a particular claim or argument to a particular author and/or you are simply unable to better express a claim or point by paraphrasing. Note that we expect that your assignment will be peppered with citations since you will largely be drawing upon the work of other people. Since it is their work, it is appropriate that they should be given credit for it. Indeed, claims that you make that are unsupported will raise question marks.
  8. All of the references that you cite are to be included in your Reference List. This list is to be compiled according to the rules specified by APA 6th edition – check REDBOOK or the APA 6th Manual. Note that your Reference List should only contain the references that you have cited in your assignment. It should not contain any material that you might have read, but not cited in the text. You will find that you will read some material that, in the end, you will not cite because it is simply not as relevant to your argument as you originally thought – this is just how the process goes!     



Your completed assignment must have the following features:

  1. All assignments must include the required Griffith assignment coversheet and title page. The coversheet and title page are included as part of a template you can download from Learning@Griffith. The template is pre-formatted and includes correct pagination, so you can begin writing your assignment directly into it.
  2. Your assignment must conform to APA style. The font should be Times New Roman (or another APA-appropriate font) and size 12 throughout. The assignment should be typed double-spaced with no spaces between paragraphs. Page margins should be 2.5 cm all around. Headings and paragraphs should be appropriately formatted, aligned, and indented.  Check REDBOOK or the APA 6th manual for more information regarding APA style. APA marks are some of the easiest to achieve, so make sure your formatting is flawless!
  3. Your assignment is limited to 2000 words, excluding the Reference List. Words that exceed the 2000 limit will not be read/marked.
  4. An abstract is NOT required for this assignment and will not be read.
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Answer :


The current essay aims to discuss about false consensus effect. There is going to be a brief discussion of this psychological factor and a critical analysis associated with it. False consensus effect is a significant factor in psychology that is associated with the cognitive thinking and thoughts of a person. It makes people believe the fact that there is a similarity between their thoughts, opinions and viewpoints with that of others. Thus, in the opinion of Sokoloski, Markowitz and Bidwell (2018), they develop the idea that there is huge similarity in the thoughts and thinking of people which shall lead to a number of resentment and thinking. However, in the long run, this factor becomes a detrimental factor to the concerned individual because it leads the individual to a false notion. However, one of the advantageous factors of false consensus effect is the increase of self esteem of the concerned individual and thus, it leads to the development of a positive notion on the mind of the people. Furthermore, owing to the fact that people under this psychological factor think that there is similarity in their thoughts and others, this is also likely to culminate into the development of a social relationship and peaceful societal norm. According to Goethals (2014), the prevalence of a false consensus on the minds of the people of a society takes place due to the dearth of their encountering the people who have a different opinion. Thus, the dearth of communication leads to the existence of a false notion on people. Along with that, in situations where people are encountered of their opinions and viewpoints, there is often a dearth of evidence which would show up the difference in the opinion of the people. However, there is a general notion among people that in case their opinion does not match with other, it shall reflect to an ineffective thought and thinking of the other people (Oostrom et al. 2017). Thus, it can be stated in this context that false consensus effect shall lead to the psychological impact of a person. The reason for which this issue persists is because people are likely to make decisions on the basis of little information that is available to them. Henceforth, they put themselves in that situation and tend to make the decision with that available information thinking that their opinion is absolutely incorrect. 

The social perception theory is hugely associated with the false consensus effect. As stated by Dawes (2018), it is associated with the concept by means of which an individual develops a notion of the society in terms of their thinking and viewpoints.  False consensus is associated with the pre development of a notion of a society where a person thinks that his viewpoints match with the opinion of others. Therefore, due to this people develop a sense of unity among themselves thinking that their opinion matches. This is a positive impact of the effect. Moreover, this also results in the development of a motivational factor for the concerned individual. This is because he thinks that his idea matches with others and thus, there is a sense of commonness. According to Lewandowsky et al. (2015), whenever there is similarity in the ideas and opinion of people, it leads to them thinking that whatever they think and opine are true to some extent. Therefore, false consensus effect results in the increase of self esteem and confidence of a person which further motivates him. Due to motivation, the person starts performing well in the daily affairs of his life. Increased self esteem results in putting a positive impact in the mental well being of the person, thereby, resulting in a furthermore, positive impacts and also a healthy lifestyle.  

However, on the contrary, there is a bad notion associated with this psychological factor. According to Eiser and van der Pligt (2015), whenever people develop a false notion of the opinion of others, he tends to have a dearth of communication with that person regarding his opinions and beliefs. Thus, as far as false consensus effect is concerned, the person directly indulged into it develops a pre idea of the other people in the society. Therefore, he does not feel the need to ask them anything of what they think. Thus, this creates a dearth of communication where much of the opinions and thoughts of people go unnoticed. According to Bergseth, Russ, and Cinner (2015), communication is one of the important steps in decision making process as it involves the ideas and perception of people to make an effective decision. Similarly, when a person develops an idea of the perception of other people, he does not merely allow the other people to communicate effectively and share their ideas. Thus, in decision making processes, there develops a false notion and the decision is taken ineffectively due to the lack of discussion and thus, people have little information of the issues persistent.  

Moreover, the theory of projection is also associated with false consensus effect. As opined by Khalmetski, Ockenfels and Werner (2015), the theory of projection refers to the imposition of the ideas and values on other people without giving them the ability to share those by themselves. Thus, similar to that, false consensus effect also leads to the same and people often face a dearth in the allowance of sharing their perception. Therefore, while one of the significant factors of false consensus effect is increase of the self esteem of the concerned person, it shall result in the lowering of self esteem of the people who do not get a stand to share their viewpoints. On the contrary, it can be stated that false consensus impacts an individual to develop a sense of commonness among them. As stated by Olson, Herman and Zanna (2014), this is because the people think that they think alike and henceforth, there results a development of a relationship between them. Due to this, the society becomes stronger resulting in conflict resolution process and better behavior towards the other person. Thus, they shall make better decision due to that. 

The false consensus effect is hugely associated with the social environment in which a person belongs to. Thus, according to Morgan, Laland and Harris (2015), due to this the impacts of false consensus effect are not very significant. The individual concerned with false consensus effect does not pay heed to the situational attributes. However, he believes in the domains and the notions that are irrelevant in the false consensus effect. The person believes that the other people believe what he does without having any notion of what those people actually think. Therefore, this creates an ambiguous ambiance for the individual, thereby, resulting in the dearth of adequacy of information available to him. Moreover, he shall also develop a false notion of himself. As mentioned by Kocher et al. (2015), false consensus effect is a two way approach and it shall affect a person and also the concerned individual. This is because an individual sees another person to think in a specific way, he shall also consider himself to think the same and thus, resulting into ambiguity. Thus, due to that the person develops a wrong notion of himself. However, this is detrimental for the relevant society. This is because a society consists of a number of people who have different traits, behavior and cognitive skills. However, false consensus effect results in them thinking that they have similar thoughts and belief, thereby, not allowing ample space to realize themselves. Thus, because of that, the society shall not make use of the various skills and opinion of people that they have. Along with that, according to Meissner et al. (2014), every individual in a society has sole existence and thus, everyone is unique. However, the prevalence of a similar kind of mentality results in determining their self being with no distinction between them. 

However, despite the aforementioned insignificant impact of false consensus effect, there are certain positive impacts associated with the factor. In the opinion of Sokoloski, Markowitz and Bidwell (2018), the impact of false consensus impact in business dealings is much significant. The impact is hugely associated with having a belief among a group of people that they are thinking alike. Therefore, due to that, they also feel confidence of the decisions that they make. Moreover, human behavior is structured in a way that it is inclined to have faith in something which is favored by majority of the people without having the need to analyze the positivity or negativity of it. Therefore, this shall either be advantageous or disadvantageous for a business. Customers are likely to get impacted from the buying decision of other customers. As stated by Goethals (2014), when one person buys the product of a company, other person is also likely to buy the same product because it helps in building confidence of the people. This culminates into false consensus effect because the people are not being able to understand themselves and what they need out of a product. Furthermore, they also do not analyze the good or the bad side of the product and is only impacted by the buying decision of other people. Thus, this factor shall be either advantageous for a business or disadvantageous for a business. The buying decision of one customer shall be favorable for the company and vice versa. In this regard, the role of the company is huge in impacting the buying behavior of the people (Oostrom et al. 2017). They need to integrate good marketing activities for impacting the customers which is likely to impact the other customers in the society as well due to false consensus effect. Similar to that, other important decisions are also determined by false consensus effect. For instance, an election is hugely determined by this. If one person votes a party, the other person is also likely to vote for the same party due to the sharing of commonness among them. According to Dawes (2018), people indulged into false consensus effect tend to think that they have like mindedness. Thus, due to that, they are also impacted by the decisions made by one of them.

An instance can be provided in this context related to false consensus effect. If someone goes to watch a film, however dislikes the film due to any of the reason, he is most likely to think that other individuals are not most likely to dislike that film. According to Lewandowsky et al. (2015), this is a clear instance of false consensus effect. Furthermore, it shall also be stated that when a person comes in acquaintance to a specific thing the he was unfamiliar with earlier, he thinks that it is known to many people because he himself knows it. However, it might happen that the actor is not known to a whole group of people. As influenced by Eiser and van der Pligt (2015), this occurs because human beings tend to believe that their ideas and perceptions are always correct and true and henceforth, their brain tends to believe that others believe that as well. This also occurs because people want to avoid conflict and thus, estimates the fact prior time. Therefore, based on the factors stated in the current essay, it can be stated that false consensus effect is the psychological state of the mind of people where they tend to think that their ideas and opinions match with the perception of other people as well. This factor has a number of positive and negative aspects. Firstly, when people think that other people also think same as him, there is a development of a relationship between them. Thus, due to that, the society gets stronger. However, that shall lead to conflicts as well as the other person is not being allowed to share his perception. Moreover, there is also prevalence of a wrong perception between the people regarding the thoughts of other person in the society. However, the sense of commonness that has developed among them leads to better decision making. In business, false consensus effect is hugely significant because it impacts the buying decision of the customers and shall either be hugely advantageous or disadvantageous.