We hypothesized that partisans who represent power and the status quo would judge their opponents less accurately than would partisans seeking change, who would be stereotyped as extremists. We surveyed the attitudes and book preferences of traditionalist and revisionist English professors, who differed in their inclinations to preserve or change the literary status quo. Both groups overestimated the differences in their attitudes and book preferences, the extremity of their opponent's conviction, and the numerical balances of the two sides. Consistent with the status quo hypotheses, traditionalists were more prone to polarize the two sides' attitudes and underestimate the book preferences they shared with their opponents, and both sides attributed more extreme convictions to revisionists. Discussion focused on mechanisms related to power-related biases.
People's capacities to categorize, interpret, and go "beyond the information given" readily lead to the stereotyping and dehumanization that escalate and entrench group conflict. This paper focuses on opposing partisans' tendency to exaggerate their opponent's extremism and the magnitude of their conflict. It is possited that opposing partisans follow a straightforward inferential path--here called "naive realism"--To conclusions about their opponent's attitudes and preferences. In testing this naive realism hypothesis, the attitudes of opposing partisans to the conflicts over abortion, racial violence, criminal justice, government budget cuts, and the Western Canon are surveyed. The paper first presents research documenting bias, then considers how imagined extremism intensifies social conflicts, and then concludes by discussing how partisans with power, compared to those without, judge their conflicts in more biased ways but themselves are judged more accurately.
One perspective on social conflict asserts that attitudes and behavior are relatively independent, thus suggesting that opposing partisans may differ minimally in concrete actions, but may assume great differences in attitude and ideology Alternatively, we proposed that partisans' concrete preferences are linked to ideology, and that partisans would exaggerate the ideological extremity of their opposition These hypotheses were tested within the “Western Canon debate” by asking revisionist and traditionalist partisans (English faculty) to select from a list of 50 books a syllabus of 15 books they would teach in an introductory course and 15 books that they believed their ideological counterparts would choose Consistent with the hypotheses, traditionalists selected books of more traditionalist ideology than did revisionists (who chose more books by female and minority authors) and exaggerated the extremity of revisionists' preferences Revisionists made less ideological book selections and judged traditionalists more accurately This asymmetry may reflect the standing of the two groups relative to the status quo