People shun popular opinions if they already hold opposing views

August 3rd, 2010 - 1:03 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Aug 3 (ANI): If you develop a strong opinion on an issue and later found that the majority of people did not have the same stand, you will become more confident in your beliefs, found a study.

“It may be that you feel proud because you were able to disprove, in your own mind, an opinion that most people have accepted,” said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

“You actually become doubly sure you were right,” he added.

The research continues a long tradition in psychology of examining how people are influenced by majority or minority opinion on a subject, Petty said.The researchers did a series of related experiments involving undergraduate students in Spain.

In one key experiment, students were told they would be examining the organizational conditions of an unfamiliar international company where they might be able to work for a future internship.

Results showed that when students had a negative view of the company because of the weak arguments presented, they were actually more confident in this belief when they learned the majority of their fellow students disagreed with them and had positive views of the company (as opposed to when the majority agreed with their negative views).

“People may be thinking that ‘if I can find the flaws in a position that the majority of people believe, then my thoughts must really be good ones,’” said Petty.

One key to this finding is that people have to think about the issue first, and develop their own ideas, Petty said.

Learning later that a majority of people hold a certain view, after you have already made up your mind, functions to help you validate what you already think about that issue, Petty said.

The results suggest how would-be persuaders could strategically reveal the majority or minority status of a proposal to achieve the maximum persuasive effect.

Their study has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (ANI)

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