Estimating the Prevalence of Shyness in the “Global Village”: Pluralistic Ignorance or False Consensus?


  • The authors would like to thank the reviewers of an earlier draft for their helpful comments

Requests for reprints should be sent to Peter R Harris, now at the Division of Psychology, School of Natural Sciences, Hatfield Polytechnic, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts AL109AB, England


ABSTRACT Only a minority of those who experience shyness consider themselves to be shy people One explanation for this lies in the possibility that those who so label themselves underestimate the extent to which their feelings are shared by others (i.e, perceive the consensus surrounding their experiences as low [Kelley, 1967]), resulting in an internal rather than external attribution This proposition was tested by asking shy and not-shy followers of two TV soap operas to rate a number of characters from the programs, together with a list of their friends and relatives, for shyness, competitiveness, and optimism Although there were no differences between the groups in their ratings of competitiveness and optimism, the shy subjects reported greater shyness among both the soap-opera characters and their friends and relatives than the not-shy group Whatever the basis for the self-labeling of shyness, therefore, it does not appear to he in the low consensus/pluralistic ignorance notion A number of alternative explanations are discussed, together with the implications of these findings for explanations of the false consensus effect