For example I might make the argument that 'Women don't face discrimination in the workplace' or that 'There isn't actually any racism anymore'* because I myself don't think in an explicitly racist or sexist manner.

*Caveat: Of course I might qualify the statement with something like 'Everyone is a little unintentionally racist' or something like that. There's also the second problem that my workplace might be particularly progressive, and I'm not witnessing sexism that occurs in other workplaces.

This would be failure to recognize that while I think that way, not everyone else does and it may exist as a problem elsewhere.

Is there a term for this bias, and more importantly, is there some kind of experiment that demonstrates it?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also see this earlier question: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/4632/… $\endgroup$
    – user7759
    Aug 18, 2015 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ I've seen this referred to as "homophilic bubble", when you are surrounded by likeminded people and thus think the rest of the world thinks the same way: blog.mozilla.org/ux/2014/10/… $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Aug 20, 2015 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is called "being human". But maybe that is just how I see it. $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Jan 23, 2016 at 0:42

2 Answers 2


Interesting question!

Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states, motivations, etc. to others and recognize that others have separate intentions, states, and motivations from his or her own.

The specific phenomenon that you are describing may stem from this concept called naive realism, or the idea that we see the world as it truly is, and that others share the same perceptions as we do. There are several other social biases that stem from the notion of naive realism. You might be particularly interested in the false-consensus effect, or the tendency to overestimate how many people share our beliefs. There is also attribution bias, or the tendency to interpret events in light of our own social world when trying to find reasons for the behavior of others.

Here are four studies that might be of interest to you, from a paper on the false-consensus effect and self-serving bias. As these are biases primarily from the realm of social psychology, most studies you find will be of groups and in-group biases. It might be more helpful to look for specific personality traits that may describe the phenomenon, i.e. lack of self-awareness.

You might also be interested in self-perception theory and, by extension, the truce experiment.


This is sometimes called the "mirror imaging" bias -- imagining or assuming that other people mirror your own thoughts / beliefs / desires / intentions.

See for example:

  • The classic reference is Heuer's Psychology of Intelligence Analysis,now available from the CIA website. See Chapter 6. Scroll down to "Be wary of mirror images".
  • It is mentioned on the stub Wikipedia page Cognitive Traps for Intelligence Analysts.
  • Curiously it is absent from the extensive Wikipedia "List of Cognitive Biases" (but I lack sufficient karma to post a third link).
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Could you provide a link/ref for more information? $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2015 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ Two links added. One referred to vaguely. :-) $\endgroup$
    – ctwardy
    Jan 22, 2016 at 16:12

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