In social psychology, naïve realism is the human tendency to believe that we see the world around us objectively, and that people who disagree with us must be uninformed, irrational, or biased.
Naïve realism provides a theoretical basis for several other cognitive biases, which are systematic errors when it comes to thinking and making decisions. These include the false consensus effect, actor-observer bias, bias blind spot, and fundamental attribution error, among others.
The term, as it is used in psychology today, was coined by social psychologist Lee Ross and his colleagues in the 1990s. It is related to the philosophical concept of naïve realism, which is the idea that our senses allow us to perceive objects directly and without any intervening processes. Social psychologists in the mid-20th century argued against this stance and proposed instead that perception is inherently subjective.
Several prominent social psychologists have studied naïve realism experimentally, including Lee Ross, Andrew Ward, Dale Griffin, Emily Pronin, Thomas Gilovich, Robert Robinson, and Dacher Keltner. In 2010, the Handbook of Social Psychology recognized naïve realism as one of “four hard-won insights about human perception, thinking, motivation and behavior that … represent important, indeed foundational, contributions of social psychology.”