The role of the evaluation and similarity principles in the false consensus effect

Steven J. Sherman, Laurie Chassin, Clark C. Presson, Gina Agostinelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Examined 2 principles of judgment derived from balance theory that may serve as foundations for the false consensus effect (FCE). The evaluation principle involves judges assuming the generally positive targets have other positive qualities. This principle was predicted to produce a limited FCE, emerging only for positive targets and only for qualities whose evaluation varies with the judge's own status. When the similarity principle is invoked, judges use self-knowledge directly as they infer that generally positive targets are "like me." This principle was predicted to produce an FCE for all characteristics, whether they were variably or universally evaluated. In Study 1, with 107 undergraduates, the evaluation principle was evoked as targets were chosen who had no relationship with the judges and who were described in positive, negative, or neutral terms. A limited FCE resulted, but for positive targets only. Study 2, with 173 Ss, attempted to evoke a similarity principle by using reference group targets to highlight the relationship between the judge and the target. A limited FCE resulted, suggesting that the evaluation principle predominated. Studies 3 and 4, with 344 Ss, attempted to evoke the similarity and evaluation principles within a single study so that they could be compared for ratings of individuals or groups. However, in both studies, limited FCEs were produced in all cases, suggesting that an evaluation principle again predominated. (16 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1244-1262
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 1984
Externally publishedYes


  • use of evaluation vs similarity principles, false consensus effect in judgments, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of the evaluation and similarity principles in the false consensus effect'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this