Date of Award

Spring 1997

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ellen S Cohn


This paper examined the role of perceived social norms in relation to people's attitudes and behavioral intentions, specifically in regards to the false consensus effect (FCE). People are prone to numerous biases in judgments about peers' beliefs, including overestimating support for their own position (i.e., false consensus). These misperceptions can then shape people's beliefs and guide their behavior. This series of studies assessed the influence of this type of misperception on attitudes and behavioral intentions regarding controversial social issues. Study 1 demonstrated that people displayed false consensus for current social issues. Alterations in wording and order of presentation did not affect the findings. Study 2 showed that this bias subsequently predicts behavioral intentions in a modified test of the theory of reasoned action. Study 3 reduced the false consensus effect by exposing participants to information supporting both sides of social issues. Recommendations for interventions that effectively change and promote beneficial social norms are discussed.