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Sunday, June 6, 2021

Shared Reality: From Sharing-Is-Believing to Merging Minds

Higgins, E. T., Rossignac-Milon, M., & 
Echterhoff, G. (2021). 
Current Directions in Psychological 
Science, 30(2), 103–110. 


Humans are fundamentally motivated to create a sense of shared reality—the perceived commonality of inner states (feeling, beliefs, and concerns about the world) with other people. This shared reality establishes a sense of both social connection and understanding the world. Research on shared reality has burgeoned in recent decades. We first review evidence for a basic building block of shared-reality creation: sharing-is-believing, whereby communicators tune their descriptions to align with their communication partner’s attitude about something, which in turn shapes their recall. Next, we describe recent developments moving beyond this basic building block to explore generalized shared reality about the world at large, which promotes interpersonal closeness and epistemic certainty. Together, this body of work exemplifies the synergy between relational and epistemic motives. Finally, we discuss the potential for another form of shared reality—shared relevance—to bridge disparate realities.

From Concluding Remarks

The field of shared reality has made significant progress in advancing understanding of how humans share inner states as a way to connect with each other and make sense of the world. These advancements shed new light on current issues. For instance, exaggerated perceptions of consensus generated by filter bubbles and echo chambers may inflate the experience of shared reality on social media, especially given the intensifying effects of collective attention (Shteynberg et al., 2020) and transmission through social networks (Kashima et al., 2018). By shaping attitudes and ideological beliefs (see Jost et al., 2018; Stern & Ondish, 2018), shared reality can perpetuate insular views and exacerbate ideological divisions. But there is a different kind of shared reality that could be beneficial in this context: shared perceptions of what is worthy of attention. Wanting to establish shared relevance is so central to human motivation that even infants seek to establish it with their caregivers by pointing out objects deserving of co-attention (Higgins, 2016).