Have you ever lost a friend to misperception? Have you lost a friend or a family member to the idea that your views got so different, that it was time to end the relationship — perhaps by unfriending each other on Facebook?
As it turns out, we often think our ideological differences are far greater than they actually are. Which means: we’re losing relationships and getting mired in polarization based on warped visions of each other.
This week on Your Undivided Attention, we're talking with Adam Mastroianni, a postdoctoral research scholar at Columbia Business School who studies how we perceive and misperceive our social worlds. Together with Adam, we're going to explore how accurate — and inaccurate — our views of each other are. As you listen to our conversation, keep in mind that relationship you might have lost to misperception, and that you might be able to revive as a result of what you hear.
CORRECTIONS: In the episode, Adam says in 1978, 85% of people said they'd vote for a Black president, but the actual percentage is 80.4%. Tristan says that Republicans estimate that more than a third of Democrats are LGBTQ, but the actual percentage is 32%. Finally, Tristan refers to Anil Seth's notion of cognitive impenetrability, but that term was actually coined by the Canadian cognitive scientist and philosopher Zenon W. Pylyshyn.
Adam Mastroianni teaches at Columbia Business School and writes the popular psychology newsletter Experimental History. He studies people’s mistaken theories of social interaction (“Do conversations end when people want them to?” Short answer: no) and social change (“Do people know how public opinion has changed?” Short answer: no). His research has been featured everywhere from The New York Times to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. He once got second place on a British reality show about hosting dinner parties, and another time he played a supporting character in a movie that has 3% on RottenTomatoes. He holds a PhD from Harvard and certificates of completion from 129 escape rooms.
Adam Mastroianni's research paper showing how stereotypes of the past lead people to misperceive attitude change, and how these misperceptions can lend legitimacy to policies that people may not actually prefer
Adam's blog, where he shares original data and thinks through ideas
Academic study showing that Americans are living in what researchers called a “false social reality” with respect to misperceptions about climate views