Discrepancy and Disliking Do Not Induce Negative Opinion Shifts
The paper of Károly Takács, Andreas Flache, and Michael Mäs has been published in the prestigious open access journal PLOS One.
Both classical social psychological theories and recent formal models of opinion differentiation and bi-polarization assign a prominent role to negative social-influence. Negative influence is defined as shifts away from the opinion of others and hypothesized to be induced by discrepancy with or disliking of the source of influence. There is strong empirical support for the presence of positive social influence (a shift towards the opinion of others), but evidence that large opinion differences or disliking could trigger negative shifts is mixed. We examine positive and negative influence with controlled exposure to opinions of other individuals in one experiment and with opinion exchange in another study. Results confirm that similarities induce attraction, but results do not support that discrepancy or disliking entails negative influence. Instead, our findings suggest a robust positive linear relationship between opinion distance and opinion shifts.