, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 293-318

We think you agree: The detrimental impact of the false consensus effect on behavior

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Abstract

Two studies were designed to examine the impact of the false consensus effect on behavior (FCE; Ross, Greene, & House, 1977). False consensus is a form of social projection whereby individuals overestimate the degree to which others share their characteristics or beliefs. In a modified test of the theory of reasoned action, Study 1 demonstrated that the FCE independently predicts behavioral intentions regarding important social issues in a sample comprised of 205 college students. Further, results indicated that self-monitoring moderates the extent to which the FCE predicts behavioral intentions (specifically, as hypothesized, the FCE is a stronger predictor of behavior for high self-monitors). Because of the prevalence of the FCE among college students regarding potentially harmful social behaviors, Study 2 was designed to eliminate the FCE by differentially presenting students (N = 280) with alternative viewpoints regarding various issues. Presenting both sides of an argument using video-based stimuli effectively reduced the FCE. Recommendations for interventions that effectively promote beneficial social norms are discussed.