Two experiments demonstrate the powerful influence of others’ views on individual attitudes and attitude expression. Those around us can influence our views through persuasion and information exchange, but the current research hypothesizes that exposure to alternate views even without discussion or exchange of persuasive arguments can also alter what attitudes are expressed, and even generate long term shifts in attitudes. In an initial study, naïve participants were asked their attitudes on a range of standard survey items privately, publicly in a group with trained confederates, and again privately following the group setting. Findings indicate significant attitudinal conformity, which was most pronounced when participants were faced with a unanimous (versus non-unanimous) group. The group experience continued to influence participants’ views when they were again asked their views in private. A second experiment varied whether participants heard views from live confederates or via computer, demonstrating that these effects could not be attributed only to issue-relevant information provided by or inferred from group members, and that attitude change persisted long after participants had left the laboratory. In summary, when people are asked their attitudes publicly, they adjust their responses to conform to those around them, and this attitude change persists privately, even weeks later. Accordingly, such purely social processes of attitude change may be every bit as important as more traditional cognitive informational processes in understanding where people’s political attitudes come from, and how they may be changed.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 15, 2015
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