When the President of the United States adopts a position at the ideological fringe on an issue like gay and transgender rights or voter fraud, he emboldens others to act on their own dangerous stereotypes.
In social psychology, false consensus is the cognitive bias motivated by humans’ desire to manufacture similarity between their attitudes and beliefs, and the attitudes and beliefs of others. These manufactured similarities provide a sense of validation for a wide range of opinions—especially those at the social and ideological fringes—which helps them to deal with cognitive dissonance.
So, if someone holds discriminatory viewpoints toward others, hearing—or merely believing—that someone as important as the President holds similar views provides a sense of validation and positive reinforcement for these discriminatory viewpoints.
The end result of false consensus in cases like this can be violence toward minorities and the vulnerable. Or, if one happens to hold a position of authority, it could lead to the enactment of discriminatory rules and regulations.
It’s for this reason that President after President throughout history has maintained a careful level of discretion when making public remarks.
But, the current president is different. His remarks are often discriminatory, and can easily promote false consensus. This is dangerous.
Today is the 15th of February, 2017. It’s not a normal Wednesday.
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