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If Everyone Agreed to Jump Off a Bridge…

By Brian | May 23, 2007 | Share on Facebook

A study from the American Psychological Association has shown that people tend to believe that an opinion they hear frequently is the majority opinion, even if they only hear it from a small number of people:

The studies found that an opinion is more likely to be assumed to be the majority opinion when multiple group members express their opinion. However, the study also showed that hearing one person express the same opinion multiple times had nearly the same effect on listener’s perception of the opinion being popular as hearing multiple people state his/her opinion.

Researchers examined the underlying processes that take place when individuals estimate the shared attitude of a group of people and how that estimation of collective opinion can be influenced by repetition from a single source. Since gauging public opinion is such an essential component in guiding our social interactions, this research has implications in almost every facet of modern day life.

I find this fascinating in light of the current state of political discourse in the country. Much is often made about George W. Bush’s 29% approval rating, and I’ve often wondered if the constant repetition of this fact sways people who may otherwise have different opinions from saying so when they’re polled.

This study would seem to validate that assumption. Or, to state it more generally, the increased exposure we all have to media today probably tends to push opinion polls to the outer extremes. In other words, things are more likely to be 80-90% popular or 80-90% unpopular than they are to be 50%/50%.

It’s a good thing to keep in mind the next time President Bush is called the “most unpopular president in history,” or when each of the upcoming summer blockbusters successively breaks the record for biggest money maker of all time.

Topics: Random Acts of Blogging | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “If Everyone Agreed to Jump Off a Bridge…”

  1. Michael Weinmayr says at May 25th, 2007 at 9:44 am :
    Rule #1 of DVR recording – if it is a live event, pad the end time. TiVo now automatically prompts you when you make the recording: “This is a live event. Add 1/2 hour?” or something like that.

  2. Brian says at May 25th, 2007 at 3:05 pm :

    We got out of the habit of padding, because we tape a bunch of prime time shows each week, and the padding would often cause an overlap of 3 shows, so an entire show wouldn’t tape at all because something else conflicted by 2 minutes.

    I like the TiVo check for live events – I’ll put that on my list of reasons to switch to TiVo over the Comcast DVR.

    When the list gets long enough…


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