Psychology: diversity of opinions influences opinion formation

22 Jun 2022

LMU researchers have shown that variance of opinions within a group can promote conformism.

People tend to conform to a dominant opinion when they are uncertain, as numerous studies have shown. Less research has been conducted, by contrast, into opinion formation in situations in which there is no clear majority opinion. A team led by Ophelia Deroy, who holds the Chair in Philosophy of Mind at LMU, has now explored this gap in our knowledge. Together with Joaquin Navajas from Torcuato Di Tella University (Argentina) and scientists from University College London, the researchers investigated whether this group behavior depends on the variance of the opinions held in the group.

Having carried out an experiment based around estimating the prices of paintings, the scientists demonstrated that participants were more likely to conform to a group opinion when the variance of opinions within the group was large. A broad spectrum of opinions can lead to group members recognizing that their opinion is incomplete or uncertain and adopting the general consensus. Larger variance therefore promoted conformity, explain the authors, such that larger swings in opinion can arise in individual members of diverse groups.

Joaquin Navajas, Oriane Armand, Rani Moran, Bahador Bahrami, Ophelia Deroy: Diversity of opinions promotes herding in uncertain crowds. Royal Society Open Science, 2022

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