Pluralistic Ignorancegreenspun.com : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread
I just finished reading an essay for my English Comp 1 class titled Thirty-eight Who Saw Murder Did'nt Call the Policy by Gansberg. It is about the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese. Although there were many witnesses no one called the police and Kitty was murdered. I have been told that there is a behavior term called "pluralistic ignorance" that accounts for this behavior. Could you elaborate on this subject? What are the moral connotations of this behavior.
-- Lydia E. Roman (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 27, 2002
I must confess I've never heard the phrase "pluralistic ignorance." The technical term usually associated with the Kitty Genovese murder is "diffusion of responsibility": if there are many people who could take responsbility, often no one will, assuming that one of the other individuals will do so. A series of social psych experimenta were done with respect to this hypothesis that, as I recall, invovled a "cofederate" pretending to have an epileptic seizure in public and seeing who would help or call for help. I cannot recall the name of the authors, but you should be able to find it in any major social psych text.
-- Christopher Green (email@example.com), October 27, 2002.
Pluralistic ignorance occurs when a bystander checks the reactions of other bystanders in an attempt to guage how they should be reacting to a situation. If everyone else seems calm, they assume that an emergency must not really be an emergency. Often times, pluralistic ignorance causes an entire group of people to remain calm in a situation that they should not because everyone checks everyone else's response, with no one person standing out with a clear cut answer of how to act. If you have any more questions on the subject, please let me know. I'm glad to help!
-- Jeff Pool (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 16, 2002.
Pluralistic ignorance is defined as a state where one "believes that their private thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are different from those of others, even though one’s public behavior is identical" (Miller & McFarland). The term pluralistic ignorance was first introduced by Floyd Allport to describe a situation in which members of a group privately reject group norms, but publicly accept them. This situation leads to the upholding of group norms in the absence of strong private support because group members are conforming to what they think the other group members support. The classic example of pluralistic ignorance, and a situation almost everyone has experienced, is called the silent classroom scenario. A teacher has just finished presenting a confusing lecture and asks the class if they have any questions. The privately confused, but outwardly composed, students look around to see what others think about the lecture. What they see are other students acting just as composed as themselves. Students misinterpret the silence of the other students to mean that their classmates understood the lecture and they alone are confused.
-- fiona cooper (email@example.com), February 24, 2005.