contagious, study finds
we may not care to admit it, what other people think about something
can affect what we think about it. This is how critics become
influential and why our parents’ opinions about our life choices
continue to matter, long after we’ve moved out.
what kind of opinions have the most effect" An important
study in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that negative
opinions cause the greatest attitude shifts, not just from good to
bad, but also from bad to worse.
“Consumer attitudes toward products and services are frequently
influenced by others around them. Social networks, such as those
found on Myspace and Facebook suggest that these influences will
continue to be significant drivers of individual consumer attitudes
as society becomes more inter-connected,” explain Adam Duhachek,
Shuoyang Zhang, and Shanker Krishnan (all of Indiana University).
“Our research seeks to understand the conditions where group
influence is strongest.”
Consumers were presented with information about a new product and
allowed to independently form their evaluations. As would be
normally expected with many products, some of these evaluations were
positive and others negative. The researchers then revealed to
participants whether their peers evaluated the product negatively or
positively. They found that the opinions of others exert especially
strong influence on individual attitudes when these opinions are
negative. Additionally, consumers that privately held positive
attitudes toward the product were more susceptible to influence from
group opinion than those who initially held negative opinions.
Furthermore, the researchers also found that those with negative
opinions of the product were likely to become even more negative if
asked to participate in a group discussion: “When consumers expect
to interact with other consumers through these forums, learning the
views of these other consumers may reinforce and even polarize their
opinions, making them more negative,” the researchers reveal.
research has several interesting implications. First, given the
strong influence of negative information, marketers may need to
expend extra resources to counter-act the effects of negative word
of mouth in online chatrooms, blogs and in offline media.
Conversely, companies could damage the reputations of competitors by
disseminating negative information online,” the researchers explain.
“Consumers should be aware that these social influence biases exist
and are capable of significantly impacting their perceptions.”
Duhachek, Shuoyang Zhang, and Shanker Krishnan, “Anticipated Group
Interaction: Coping with Valence Asymmetries in Attitude Shift.”
Journal of Consumer Research: October 2007.