This ludicrously high average guess among men for US women is largely due to a small number of US men who think that US women have an incredible number of partners. In fact, there were around 20 US men in our sample of 1,000 that went for numbers of 50 or (sometimes way) above, and that skews the data.
Our misperceptions reveal a lot about how we see the world. They are a brilliant clue to our deep-seated biases, as our guesses at what is “normal” are more automatic and unguarded. In this study, these guesses point to some frighteningly wrong views of young people and women, particularly among a small section of men.
As with other misperceptions, the answer is not just to bombard people with more facts to correct these views, but to also deal with the underlying causes – that what we’re told and how we think leads many of us to get so much so wrong.