Political Chameleons: An Exploration of Conformity in Political Discussions
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- Carlson, T.N. & Settle, J.E. Polit Behav (2016) 38: 817. doi:10.1007/s11109-016-9335-y
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Individuals do not always express their private political opinions in front of others who disagree. Neither political scientists nor psychologists have been able to firmly establish why this behavior occurs. Previous research has explored, at length, social influence on political attitudes and persuasion. However, the concept of conformity does not involve attitude change or persuasion; it more accurately involves self-censoring to match a socially desirable norm. In an effort to improve our understanding of this behavior, we conduct two experiments to investigate perceptions and behavioral responses to contentious political interactions. Study 1 asked participants to predict how a hypothetical character would respond to a variety of political interactions among coworkers. In Study 2, participants discussed political issues with confederates who were scripted to disagree with them. The studies reveal that individuals are uncomfortable around political interactions in which they hold an opinion counter to the group. Participants both expected a hypothetical character to conform in Study 1 and actually conformed themselves in the lab session in Study 2.