Reality is socially made

One way to define reality is to approach it as a construct that is built within a social context. Social comparison theory, social proof and shared mental models are three different perspectives that all treat the perception of reality as a social process:

The social comparison perspective looks at the determination of reality on the basis of a social consensus. By checking individual experiences and their interpretations against the perception of similar others a consensus is established, then every event or opinion can be correctly interpreted based on this consensus (Festinger, 1954 as cited in Van Swol, 2008).

The social proof perspective examines how the behaviours of others influence an individual’s social reality. A person may accept the behaviour of the majority proving its own justification. Since ‘everyone’ is behaving or believing in a certain way this must be the true and correct way to perceive reality (Sunstein, 2003 as cited in Van Swol, 2008).

The perspective of shared mental models approaches the co-creation of reality as a shared view of group processes, norms, and roles that helps coordination and performance. Trough communication a shared model of the situation is build along with how best to perceive it and how to behave accordingly (Roberson, 2006 as cited in Van Swol, 2008). Strong shared mental models have shown to improve task performance (Cannon-Bowers et al. 1993 as cited in Van Swol, 2008).

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.
(Mark Twain, 1897)

When we are born we know nothing and accept everything, quite literally anything is possible. When we grow up our view of the world changes from acceptance into expectancy; in our middle to late childhood what we define as real changes from everything that is possible into the things that are probable or plausible (Shapiro, & Makana Chock, 2003; Van Swol, 2008). Especially in a mediated context, whether or not we perceive things as real becomes more important.

Van Swol, L. (2008). Perceived reality as a social process. In W. Donsbach (Ed.), The international encyclopaedia of communication (pp. 3558-3559): Blackwell publishing.
Shapiro, M. A., & Makana Chock, T. (2003). Psychological processes in perceiving reality. Media psychology, 5(2), 163-198.

– this is an excerpt from my MSc-thesis How Alternate Reality Gaming changes reality

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