Naïve realism is the conviction that one sees the world as it is and that when people don’t see it in a similar way, it is they that do not see the world for what it is. Ross characterized naïve realism as “a dangerous but unavoidable conviction about perception and reality”. The danger of naïve realism is that while humans are good in recognizing that other people and their opinions have been shaped and influenced by their life experiences and particular dogmas, we are far less adept at recognizing the influence our own experiences and dogmas have on ourselves and opinions. We fail to recognize the bias in ourselves that we are so good in picking out in others.
Naïve realism is poison to any open-ended investigation. A good investigator must strive to remain open-minded and remain cognizant of his/her own biases. If a bias evolves into naïve realism, the investigator ceases to function as an investigator and becomes an apologist.
The Design Matrix helps to buffer against naïve realism in two ways.
First, since it recognizes and acknowledges the subjective dimension to a design inference and its assessment, TDM places great importance on intellectual honesty.
Second, the central metaphor of TDM is the Rabbit/Duck figure from Chapter 6. This is a truly unique way of approaching this issue and it amounts to an acknowledgment and understanding of both perspectives. For example, while I may chase the Rabbit, I am well aware that it also looks like a Duck. I see both. Those who come to the table with Naïve Realism will, more often than not, see only the Duck or the Rabbit. They truly believe they see the world as it is.