Widespread misperceptions of long-term attitude change

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Mar 15;119(11):e2107260119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2107260119. Epub 2022 Mar 7.


SignificancePeople change when they think others are changing, but people misperceive others' changes. These misperceptions may bedevil people's efforts to understand and change their social worlds, distort the democratic process, and turn imaginary trends into real ones. For example, participants believed that Americans increasingly want to limit immigration, which they said justifies tighter borders. However, participants also said that limiting immigration would not be right if attitudes had shifted against it--which is what actually occurred. Our findings suggest that the national discourse around contentious social issues, policies resulting from that discourse, and perhaps the opinions that drive discourse in the first place would be very different if people better understood how attitudes have and have not changed.

Keywords: attitudes; misperception; social change.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Perception*
  • Social Change*
  • Time Factors
  • United States