Are you a victim of pluralistic ignorance?

The latest polls show that 60% of Americans disapprove of the war in Iraq and want us out. And yet the Republican talking points, as mouthed by Cokie Roberts last Sunday, include “anyone who doesn’t support this war is part of the ’radical left fringe’”.

How can 60% of the population be the fringe of anything? Last time I checked, 60% was a majority, which is to say, the CENTER of public opinion.

How do they get away with this? It’s called pluralistic ignorance. This is the tendency to believe that one’s attitudes are out of step with those of one’s peers, even when everyone’s behavior is the same. And according to Princeton researchers, “those who feel deviant from a perceived norm are reluctant to challenge it.” That is, if you believe everyone else supports a war, but you don’t, you’ll be less likely to speak up. Which means, that all those others who agree with you, but don’t hear you challenging conventional opinion are likely to believe that they’re out of step. Which means that they don’t speak up. And on and on, in a vicious cycle.

In the same way, over half those whose spouse has died report being visited by that spouse after death — and yet contact with those who have dropped their bodies is considered unique, odd or perhaps unbelievable! Again, if you believe you are the only person who is having this contact, then you will be less likely to tell people about it, for fear of being thought odd or wrong. And so a common belief goes unchallenged long beyond the time when most no longer believe it.

How do we combat pluralistic ignorance? See what you see. Hear what you hear. Know what you know. And speak up! Tell other people about what you now believe, whether that’s about an anomalous experience or a political belief. You might be surprised to learn that you’re not odd or out of step at all.

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (, who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.