Same Words, Same Context, Different Meanings: People are unaware their own concepts are not always shared

AbstractA long-standing assumption in cognitive science has been that concepts are shared among individuals for common words. However, given that concepts are formed by the data we observe, and observations vary wildly across individual experiences, our concepts are not likely identical. Here, we present data in which 104 participants answer questions regarding their beliefs about the definitions of common everyday words, and the degree to which they think others agree. Our results suggest that even for common words, there exist many distinct extensions of ordinary and political concepts across individuals. There is also a pervasive bias which leads individuals to overestimate the degree to which others agree, which may explain why ``talking past each other'' is an anecdotally common experience when discussing important topics.

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