I understand Naive realism as: I am objective and whoever disagrees with me is biased. I don't get Naive cynicism though. Does is stand for: I am objective and others are more selfish than me?

What is the difference between Naive realism and cynicism? Is one a subset or consequence of the other?


The lexical approach may assist. The lexical hypothesis states that, ‘All aspects of human personality, which are or have been of importance, interest or utility, have already become recorded in the substance of language’(Cattell, 1943) and, ‘When an idea is important, people are likely to have a word for it … the more important something is, … the more words there are likely to be’(Miller, 1996). The atlas of personality, emotion and behaviour uses a lexical approach to visualise words using the axes of affiliation and dominance (Mobbs, 2020).

Unsure what is implied by naive, however, the synonyms are:

  • Cynicism: disbelief, disenchantment, disillusion, distrust, doubt, doubtfulness, dubiety, incredulity, irony, mistrust, negative_thinking, negativity, nihilism, pessimism, sardonicism, scepticism, scoffing, suspicion, and unbelief.

  • Realism: accuracy, authenticity, clear-sightedness, common_sense, faithfulness, fidelity, level-headedness, naturalism, opportunism, pragmatism, telling_it_like_it_is, truthfulness, and veracity.

The visualisation of cynicism and realism according to the atlas approach are shown below. Optimism, pessimism, altruism and sadism are also included for the purpose of comparison:

'Isms' according to the Atlas of personality, emotion and behaviour (Mobbs, 2020)

In answer to your question, cynicism is both submissive and anti-social. It is associated with the emotions of anxiety and fear. Realism is neither dominant or submissive and is more associated with the emotions of stability and harmony. Optimism is both dominant and affiliative and is associated with the emotions of confidence and courage.


Cattell RB. The description of personality: basic traits resolved into clusters. J Abnorm Soc Psychol. 1943; 38: 476–506. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0054116

Miller GA. The science of words. New York: Scientific American Library; 1996.

Mobbs AED (2020) An atlas of personality, emotion and behaviour. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227877. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227877

Declared interest: I am the author of the atlas paper.


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