Attitude conflict—interpersonal disagreement on deeply-held, identity relevant issues—is common in personal, professional, and policy settings. Understanding one’s counterpart is critical to success in such contexts. Although prior literature focuses on misperceptions of counterpart cognitions, people often rely on affect to explain others’ behavior. Here, we examine the accuracy of individuals’ assessments of others’ affective states during attitude conflict. Specifically, we examine one affective state that has been theorized to play a central role in such situations: self-threat (i.e., threat to the integrity of an individual’s self-concept). In four pre-registered studies (N = 1,707), individuals systematically over-estimated the levels of threat reported by conflict counterparts, which in turn increased confidence in persuasion. The effect was mediated by “naïve realism,” an excessive faith in the objectivity of one’s views. The present studies document a novel barrier to effective communication and extend our understanding of how affect drives behavior during attitude conflict.
Dorison, Charles A., and Julia A. Minson. "You can’t handle the truth! Conflict counterparts over-estimate each other’s feelings of self-threat." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 170 (May 2022): 104147.