Personal judgments are swayed by group opinion, but only for three days

May 23, 2014, Association for Psychological Science
Personal judgments are swayed by group opinion, but only for three days

We all want to feel like we're free-thinking individuals, but there's nothing like the power of social pressure to sway an opinion. New research suggests that people do change their own personal judgments so that they fall in line with the group norm, but the change only seems to last about 3 days. The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

This is a photo of a figure standing out from the crowd."Our findings suggest that exposure to others' opinions does indeed change our own private opinions—but it doesn't change them forever," says psychological scientist and study author Rongjun Yu of South China Normal University. "Just like working memory can hold about 7 items and a drug can be effective for certain amount of time, social influence seems to have a limited time window for effectiveness."

The fact that personal judgments are swayed by the opinions' of others is a well-established phenomenon in psychology research.

But it's unclear whether oft-observed social conformity reflects public compliance, motivated by a desire to fit in with the group and avoid social rejection, or private acceptance, which leads to a genuine change in personal opinion that persists even when is removed.

Yu and colleagues Yi Huang and Keith Kendrick decided to investigate this question in the lab. They recruited Chinese college students to participate in a study exploring how "people perceive ." The students looked at 280 digital photographs of young adult Chinese women and were asked to rate the attractiveness of each face on an 8-point scale.

After rating a face, they saw the purported average of 200 other students' ratings for that face. Importantly, the group average matched the participant's rating only 25% of the time. The rest of the time, the group average fell 1, 2, or 3 points above or below the participant's rating.

The students were brought back to the lab to rate the faces again after either 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, or 3 months has passed.

The data showed that the group norm seemed to sway participant's own judgments when they re-rated the photos 1 and 3 days after the initial session.

There was, however, no evidence for a social-conformity effect when the intervening period was longer (either 7 days or 3 months after the first session).

According to the researchers, the fact that participants' opinions were swayed for up to 3 days suggests more than a superficial lab-based effect—rather, group norms seem to have had a genuine, albeit brief, impact on participants' privately held opinions.

These studies are notable, says Yu, because they were able to control for methodological issues that often arise in studies that use a test-retest format, such as the natural human tendencies to regress to the mean and to behave consistently over time.

The one question that Yu and colleagues still don't know the answer to is why the effect lasts for 3 days. They plan on investigating whether there might be a neurological reason for the duration of the effect, and whether the effect can be manipulated to last for shorter or longer durations.

Explore further: People seem more attractive in a group than they do apart

More information: Paper: pss.sagepub.com/content/early/ … 97614532104.abstract

Related Stories

People seem more attractive in a group than they do apart

October 29, 2013
People tend to be rated as more attractive when they're part of a group than when they're alone, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Views you can use? How online ratings affect your judgment

August 8, 2013
Are you influenced by the opinions of other people—say, in the comments sections of websites? If your answer is no, here's another question: Are you sure?

Young children form first impressions from faces

March 4, 2014
Just like adults, children as young as 3 tend to judge an individual's character traits, such as trustworthiness and competence, simply by looking at the person's face, new research shows. And they show remarkable consensus ...

People prefer products that help them 'save face' in embarrassing moments

August 13, 2013
People who are feeling embarrassed are more likely to choose items that hide or 'repair' the face, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The ...

Brain imaging study reveals what makes some people more susceptible to peer influence

April 29, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A brain area activated by group decisions can distinguish people more likely to conform to the will of a group, say researchers from UCL.

Recommended for you

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

Study listens in on speech development in early childhood

January 15, 2018
If you've ever listened in on two toddlers at play, you might have wondered how much of their babbling might get lost in translation. A new study from the University of Toronto provides surprising insights into how much children ...

Study suggests people dislike you more for humblebragging than for regular boasting

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers from Harvard University and UNC-Chapel Hill has conducted a study regarding humblebragging—in which a person boasts about an achievement but tries to make it sound less boastful by minimizing it—and ...

Study identifies brain circuit controlling social behavior

January 11, 2018
A new study by researchers at Roche in Basel, Switzerland has identified a key brain region of the neural circuit that controls social behavior. Increasing the activity of this region, called the habenula, led to social problems ...

Can writing your 'to-do's' help you to doze? Study suggests jotting down tasks can speed the trip to dreamland

January 11, 2018
Writing a "to-do" list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep, according to a Baylor University study. Research compared sleep patterns of participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming duties versus participants ...

Tamper-resistant oxycodone tablets have no impact on overall opioid use

January 11, 2018
The introduction of tamper-resistant opioid tablets does not have an effect on rates of opioid use or harms at a population level, according to a new study led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

katesisco
not rated yet May 24, 2014
One wonders if this was known when the Lemon Law was created. You are in the thrall of your car purchase, you've please the salesmen, your family, yourself and 3 days later the glow dies.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.