Mark Bauerlein desribes it this way:
"After Nixon crushed McGovern in the 1972 election, the film critic Pauline Kael made a remark that has become a touchstone among conservatives. 'I don't know how Richard Nixon could have won,' she marveled. 'I don't know anybody who voted for him.'
"While the second sentence indicates the sheltered habitat of the Manhattan intellectual, the first signifies what social scientists call the False Consensus Effect. That effect occurs when people think that the collective opinion of their own group matches that of the larger population. If the members of a group reach a consensus and rarely encounter those who dispute it, they tend to believe that everybody thinks the same way."
Mr Bauerlein is writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, but the effect can be heard within any enclosed community -- including our very own CAD communities. You hear it from members of CAD users groups, from employess of CAD companies, and from attendees at CAD-specific conferences.
Here is one way that F.C.E works: several years ago I reported on the fall-out from a CAD vendor's announcement at a trade show. An executive blasted me an email (written at 6am!) on how I misinterpreted the company's intentions. His company could do no wrong. Six months later, I heard through an intermediary that the fellow had left the company, and now that he was on the outside, saw that my analysis was correct.
Once false consensus has set in, the next stage is the Law of Group Polarization, a term made up by Cass Sunstein, but also recognized by anthropoligists: The most extreme viewpoint in a FCE group become the norm.
We frequently see examples of the L.G.P effect in numbers. Every organization likes to be larger, so it attempts to pass on the largest-sounding statistics. "Nearly two thousand" becomes "2,000" becomes "nearly three thousand." Through consensus, opinion becomes fact.
And once fact, it can never decrease in value. You know the effect has a strong hold when an organization reacts angrily at any suggestion its numbers are overblown. Woe to him who counterpolarizes the consensus by remarking, "Well, actually, it was less than 2,000."
CAD is not life; the trend toward CAD-specific conferences -- Autodesk University, Bentley Experience, SolidWorks World, UGS Something-or-other, COE -- has its disturbing side: you only hear the thoughts and opinions of like-minded customers. Events like NDES, the old A/E/C Systems, and COFES present CAD in its wonderful variety. "Disagreeing is more challenging than agreeing," sums up Julia Gorin.
And one of the roles of upFront.eZine, I trust, is to puncture FCE and LGP. What other publication is disagreeable enough to raise these issues, eh?