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Two experiments do not support the negative-influence assumption

posted Jun 23, 2016, 3:10 AM by Michael Maes   [ updated Jun 23, 2016, 3:11 AM ]
Together with Károly Takács, and Andreas Flache I published results from two laboratory experiments testing the assumption that individuals tend to increase opinion differences to disliked others (negative influence). The paper is here.

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.