In My Humble Popular Opinion
By Ben Levisohn
Hoping to convince the boss that your opinion on an issue is widely accepted? Just keep repeating it. In a study recently published in The Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, researchers at the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and Virginia Tech had about 1,000 students read fake opinions—about, say, land use in New Jersey or who should be Napster’s next CEO. Some of the undergrads were exposed to a viewpoint voiced once by three different people. Others read the same opinion reiterated three times by one person. The result? A viewpoint repeated by a single person was as likely (90%) to be considered “popular” as an opinion expressed by three people. “The message becomes separated from the source,” explains Michigan public policy professor Stephen Garcia, one of the study’s authors.