Naive Realism as a Barrier in Conflict Resolution

Naive realism, in this context, is defined as: “the conviction that one’s own views are objective and unbiased, whereas the other’s views are biased by ideology, self-interest and irrationality.  Meytal Nasie and his co-authors performed three studies in the setting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to examine the effects of naive realism on conflict resolution — or lack thereof.  They hypothesized that raising awareness of the bias of naive realism and its prevalence in all people would provide those in conflict with a path to overcome the socio-psychological barrier posed by naive realism and would lead to more openness to the other side.

1. What They Did – Intervention Summary:

Study 1: This study was performed on Jewish Israelis to determine the effect of awareness of the psychological bias of naive realism.  Participants were assigned to read either a text detailing the psychological bias of naive realism or a control text and then to fill out a survey.  The manipulation text first defined naive realism, then emphasized its negative consequences on human life and its universality.  Participants were first tested for understanding of the text and for political orientation as a moderating variable.  They then responded to three items about historical conflicts, ranking their openness to the views of Palestinians.

Study 2: This study followed the same parameters and procedure as Study 1, but was performed on Palestinian Israeli students.

Study 3: This study used slightly different parameters to further examine the results of studies 1 and 2.  Study 3 sought to examine whether a participant’s baseline openness to their adversaries would moderate the effects of naive realism manipulation.  Participants in this study were contacted twice (3 days apart) to complete multiple questionnaires, which they believed were entirely separate, about their general political and social attitudes.  The initial questionnaire measured participants’ baseline openness to the narratives of adversaries and how deeply rooted they were in their own views.  The second questionnaire followed a design similar to studies 1 and 2.  The most important modification was one that allowed the experimenters to gain information about how willing the  participants were to receive new information about the views of their adversaries, even if that information conflicted their own baseline beliefs.

2. What They Found – Results:

 Study 1: This study found that openness of the Jewish Israeli students studied to the views of Palestinians was highly correlated to their stated political orientation.  Rightist study participants were much less open to the adversary’s narrative than leftist participants.  The study found no significant direct effect of the naive realism manipulation.  However, it was discovered that ideology significantly moderated the manipulation’s effects on openness.  Rightist participants who were manipulated using the naive realism article demonstrated more openness to the opposing side after reading it.

Study 2: This study found a somewhat significant direct effect of the naive realism manipulation, which means that in the case of Palestinian Israelis studied, generally, those who were manipulated showed greater openness to their adversaries.  Study 2 also found that the manipulation had a greater effect on rightist participants- in this case, those with greater adherence to ethos- than on leftist participants.

Study 3: This study found that participants with high FENCE (Firmly Entrenched Narrative Closure, which is highly correlated with political orientation) and rightist political orientation were almost always less open to the narratives of adversaries than were participants with low FENCE and leftist views.  The study also found that, in general, participants who underwent the naive realism manipulation had somewhat greater openness to the adversary’s narrative.

Combined, these findings show that it is possible to increase the openness of people to the arguments of their adversaries by making them aware of the possible biases of their own beliefs.

3. Who Was Studied – Sample:

Study 1: Jewish Israeli undergraduate/graduate students

Study 2: Palestinian Israeli undergraduate students

Study 3: Jewish Israeli civilians

4. Study Name:

Nasie et. al 2014

5. Citation:

Nasie, M., Bar-Tal, D., Pliskin, R., Nahhas, E., Haperin, E., (2014) Overcoming the Barrier of Narrative Adherence in Conflicts Through Awareness of the Psychological Bias of Naive Realism.  Personal and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 1543-1557.

6. Link:

7. Intervention categories:

contact, perspective

8. Sample size:

Study 1: 61

Study 2: 79

Study 3: 94

9. Central Reported Statistic:

Study 1: “the two-way interaction was significant (b  = −.47, SE =  0.16, t  = −2.95, p  = .004, 95% confidence

interval [CI] = [−0.80, −0.15]).”

Study 2: “the analysis produced a marginally significant main effect for the experimental condition (b  =.28, SE  = 0.15, t  = 1.86, p  = .06)”

Study 3: “the analysis revealed a marginally significant main effect for the experimental condition on levels of openness to the adversary’s narrative, controlling for political orientation (b  = .20, SE  = 0.11, t  = 1.83, p  = .06).”