Naive Realism

Here’s some more detail from that California Management Review article about “hot” and “cool” conflict. As I said before, I love it when researchers are able to document the things I have been dealing with in my work. I was particularly glad to see that they have a name for a dynamic that I see in almost EVERY client system.

They call it “naïve realism.” I don’t know what to call it, but in every conflict situation I have been in, I have had to work with the people involved to begin to see that the conclusions they have about the world are not necessarily “objective.” Quoting research, Edmondson and Smith define naïve realism as

A person’s “unshakable conviction that he or she is somehow privy to an invariant, knowable, objective reality—a reality that others will also perceive faithfully, provided that they are reasonable and rational.” So, when others misperceive that “reality,” we conclude that it must be because they view the world through a “prism of self-interest, ideological bias, or personal perversity.”

In short, we understand reality quite well, and if someone is behaving in a way that is contradictory to our view of reality, we conclude that they are basically evil or insane. You know you have fallen into this cognitive trap when you start asking the rhetorical “how could they” questions (How could they act like that? How could they not see the impact of that? How could you be such a fool?). Whenever you are asking these incredulous questions, let that be a warning to you: you probably are missing some important information that they have, which affects their view of the situation. That would be the time to ask some REAL questions to find out more about the other side’s perspective.