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The typical student as an in-group member: eliminating optimistic bias by reducing social distance

Harris, P.R, Middleton, W. and Joiner, R. (2000) The typical student as an in-group member: eliminating optimistic bias by reducing social distance. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30 (2). pp. 235-253. ISSN 0046-2772

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Abstract

While demonstrations of optimistic bias are plentiful, successful attempts at eliminating the bias (debiasing) are rare. The current study attempted to debias by reducing the perceived social distance between the self and the typical own university student. Using self-categorisation theory, it was predicted that rating the out-group target (the typical student at another university) before the in-group one would reduce the perceived social distance between the self and the latter and lead to a reduction in optimistic bias. Both predictions were supported, with optimistic bias being eliminated for negative events and attenuated for positive events. In the standard optimistic bias condition (in-group first) optimistic bias was obtained for both negative and positive events. The findings provide support for perceived social distance in determining optimistic bias. The implications for recent arguments that comparisons with an abstract target automatically evoke an I am better than average heuristic or necessarily entail the use of distributional judgmental frameworks are explored. Whilst the automatic linking of abstract targets with heuristic or distributional thinking is called into question, a case is made for integrating these ideas with the self-categorisation approach. Where practitioners aim to reduce optimistic bias, the findings suggest promoting the perception of the target as a fellow in-group member may help do so. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Item Type: Article
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > Department of Psychology (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Miss Anthea Tucker
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2009 13:16
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2009 13:16
Published Version: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/7000405...
Status: Published
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9928

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