The Pluralistic Ignorant Hipster

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After reading this chapter of Clive Thompson's Smarter Than You Think, I personally wasn't aware of what "pluralistic ignorance" was (still), but this nice little definition that Google gave me I think gives me a little more insight:

"In social psychology, pluralistic ignorance is a situation in which a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but incorrectly assume that most others accept it, and therefore go along with it. This is also described as "no one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone believes."

This is sort of funny to me, and reminds me of those annoying people in high school who kept talking about how everyone was condoning animal cruelty because they didn't understand or appreciate vegetarianism.

Which to me, wasn't much of an issue at my high school (we were very vegetarian friendly)--but it goes along the same lines of people who like to "fight for the cause" and stand up to speak about what they believe in even though a lot of people already agree with them.

I guess in a way, this is kind of the idea of a "hipster"--a term that has kind of gotten some backlash over the years. People who think they are being eclectic and different, but in reality are just like the other many "hipsters" before them.


How do we fight this? Well Thompson suggests that technology and books are doing this: "To make social change begin to snowball, we need to make our thoughts visible. When members of society think in public and keep in ambient contact with one another, it creates a new environment--where we're increasingly aware of what changes might be possible" (254).

In other words, we are capable of communicating our ideas (that we may think are very original) to others--and to our surprise, be able to find that there are other people in the world who believe in the exact same stuff that we do. And more importantly, we can work with those same people to make a difference.

I think Thompson also says it best when he mentions that "Our ability to communicate instantly across vast distances, to speak to the world and to each other, seems uniquely freedomish" (249). Literature is freedom--of words and our minds, and when we put our work out there we can find that there is a lot more to think about and it's ignorant to think that we are the only people out there with those same ideas.



ald_3's picture

Hey Marissa - I really like

Hey Marissa - I really like the connection you made here between pluralistic ignorance and hipster culture. It's a sad irony that it's basically impossible to be a non-conformist, because as soon as some people start deciding not to conform with you, then you've got a counter-culture which is still a form of conformity (did that make sense? It did in my head...). Anyway, I really like how you summed this post up with the quote from Thompson and the connection to literature - it's definitely important to share our ideas because, like you said, we'll probably find people who think the same way we do and that can lead to social change for the better. Thanks for sharing!