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The term pluralistic ignorance was first used as a psychological term by the social psychologist Floyd Allport in the 1920s to describe mistaken impressions or misjudgments about others' beliefs, emotions, or thoughts. The term gained wide currency in the 1970s to describe patterns of false beliefs as applicable to the political arena or other social issues.

Pluralistic ignorance functions on the psychological level insofar as it explains the aspect of ignorance and on the social level to help understand the pluralistic element of the phenomena. Pluralistic ignorance occurs when people mischaracterize the number of people who hold similar or same opinions. For example, a person may believe that a majority of people subscribes to a position actually held by a minority. Conversely, one may believe ...

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