Research / BFI Working PaperAug 23, 2021

Misperceptions about Others

Leonardo Bursztyn, David Y. Yang

People’s perceptions about others play an important role in shaping their own attitudes and behaviors, as well as social norms more broadly. This review presents a meta-analysis of the recent empirical literature that examines perceptions about others in the field. We document a number of stylized facts. Misperceptions about others are widespread, asymmetric, much larger when about out-group members, and positively associated with one’s own attitudes. Experimental treatments to re-calibrate misperceptions generally work as intended; they sometimes lead to meaningful changes in behaviors, though this often occurs only immediately after the treatments. We discuss different conceptual frameworks that could explain the origin, persistence, and rigidity of misperceptions about others. We point to several directions for future research.

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