Political Chameleons: An Exploration of Conformity in Political Discussions
- 1.2k Downloads
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.
KeywordsConformity Discussion Contention Politics Opinions
The authors thank the William & Mary Omnibus Project for facilitating participant recruitment and the Social Networks and Political Psychology (SNaPP) Lab for providing both the infrastructure and research assistant team that made this study possible. The authors are also grateful for support from the National Science Foundation (grant SES-1423788), as well as the Charles Center at William & Mary for providing honors fellowship funding for Study 2. Finally, the authors thank the anonymous reviewers whose helpful comments greatly improved this paper.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Abramowitz, Alan I. (2006). Comment on disconnected: The political class versus the people. In P. S. Nivola & D. W. Brady (Eds.), Red and blue nation? Characteristics and causes of America’s polarized politics (pp. 72–84). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
- Abramowitz, A. I. (2010). The disappearing center: Engaged citizens, polarization, & American democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Ahn, T. K., Huckfeldt, R., & Ryan, J. B. (2010). Communication, influence, and informational asymmetries among voters. Political Psychology, 31(5), 763–787. Presented at the Conference on Social Dilemmas, sponsored by the Research Group for Experimental Social Science at Florida State University.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Ahn, T. K., Huckfeldt, R., & Ryan, J. B. (2014). Experts, activists, and democratic politics: Are electorates self-educating? Cambridge studies in public opinion and political psychology. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Ansolabehere, S., & Schaffner, B. Does survey mode still matter? Political Analysis (Forthcoming).Google Scholar
- Berelson, B. R., Lazarsfeld, P. F., & McPhee, W. N. (1954). Voting: A study of opinion formation in a presidential campaign. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Blattman, C. (2015). Why I worry experimental social science is headed in the wrong direction. http://chrisblattman.com/2015/12/07/if-you-run-field-experiments-this-might-be-paper-that-will-make-it-harder-to-publish-your-work-in-a-few-years/.
- Brewer, M. B., & Roccas, S. (2001). Individual, self, relational self, collective self. Psychology Press. Chapter Individual Values, Social Identity, and Optimal Distinctiveness, pp. 219–37.Google Scholar
- Burnett, C. (2012). Artificial intelligence: Comparing survey responses for online and offline samples. In APSA 2012 annual meeting paper.Google Scholar
- Campbell, A., Gurin, G., & Miller, W. E. (1954). The voter decides. Peterson: Row.Google Scholar
- Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., Miller, W. E., & Stokes, D. E. (1960). The American voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Cialdini, R. B., Wosinska, W., Barrett, D. W., Butner, J., & Gornik-Durose, M. (1999). Compliance with a request in two cultures: The differential influence of social proof and commitment/consistency on collectivists and individualists. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1242–1253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (4th ed.). Newton, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
- Converse, P. E. (1964). The nature of belief systems in mass publics. Glencoe: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Crabtree, C., Fariss, C. J., & Kern, H. L. (2015). Truth replaced by silence: A field experiment on private censorship in Russia. Available at SSRN 2708274.Google Scholar
- Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. Harper and Row.Google Scholar
- Dryzek, J. S. (1994). Discursive democracy: Politics, policy, and political science. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Gerber, A. S., & Green, D. P. (2012). Field experiments: Design, analysis, and interpretation. New York, NY: WW Norton.Google Scholar
- Giuseffi, K. E., Smith, K. B., & Hibbing, J. R. (2013). Social anxiousness and political participation. Paper presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
- Green, D. P., Palmquist, B., & Schickler, E. (2002). Partisan hearts and minds. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Haidt, J. (2014). Your personality makes your politics. Time Magazine. http://science.time.com/2014/01/09/your-personality-makes-your-politics/.
- Haidt, J., & Wilson, C. (2014). Can TIME predict your politics? See how your preferences in dogs, Internet browsers, and 10 other items predict your partisan leanings. TIME Magazine. http://time.com/510/can-time-predict-your-politics/.
- Haidt, J., & Hetherington, M. J. (2012). Look how far we’ve come apart. Campaign Stops, September 17. http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/look-how-far-weve-come-apart/
- Hlavac, M. (2015). Stargazer: Well-formatted regression and summary statistics tables. R package version 5.2 http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=stargazer.
- Hofstede, G. (1980). Cultures consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Katz, E., & Lazarsfeld, P. F. (1955). Personal influence: The part played by people in the flow of mass communications. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Klofstad, C. A., McDermott, R., & Hatemi, P. K. (2012). The dating preferences of liberals and conservatives. Political Behavior, 120.Google Scholar
- Lasswell, H. D. (1936). Politics: who gets what, when, how. Peter Smith .Google Scholar
- Lasswell, H. D. (1941). Democracy through public opinion. George Banta Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Lazarsfeld, P. F., Berelson, B., & Gaudet, H. (1968). The people’s choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a presidential campaign. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Levitan, L. C., & Verhulst, B. (2015). Conformity in groups: The effects of others views on expressed attitudes and attitude change. Political Behavior.Google Scholar
- Levy, M., & Dubinsky, A. J. (1983). Identifying and addressing retail salespeople’s ethical problems: A method and application. Journal of Retailing, 59(1), 46–66.Google Scholar
- Lupia, A., & McCubbins, M. D. (1998). The democratic dilemma: Can citizens learn what they need to know?. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Mondak, J. J. (2012). Personality and the foundations of political behavior. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Noelle-Neumann, E. (1993). The spiral of silence: Public opinion-our social skin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Nowak, A., & Vallacher, R.R. (2001). Societal transition: Toward a dynamical model of social change. The Practice of Social Influence in Multiple Cultures, 151–71.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R. D. (2001). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of american community. Touchstone Books by Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
- Triandis, H. C. (1990). Cross-cultural studies of individualism and collectivism. In J. J. Berman (Ed.) Nebraska symposium on motivation (Vol. 37, pp. 41–133).Google Scholar
- Young, A. (2016). Channelling fisher: Randomization tests and the statistical insignificance of seemingly significant experimental results. Working Paper as of February 2016.Google Scholar
- Zuckerman, A. S. (2005). The social logic of politics: Personal networks as contexts for political behavior. Temple University Press.Google Scholar