Social influence on political judgments: The case of presidential debates

Steven Fein*, George R. Goethals, Matthew B. Kugler

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    35 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Four experiments investigated the extent to which judgments of candidate performance in presidential debates could be influenced by the mere knowledge of others' reactions. In Experiments 1 and 2 participants watched an intact version of a debate or an edited version in which either "soundbite" one-liners or the audience reaction to those soundbites were removed. In Experiment 3 participants saw what was supposedly the reaction of their fellow participants on screen during the debate. Participants in Experiment 4 were exposed to the reactions of live confederates as they watched the last debate of an active presidential campaign. In all studies, audience reactions produced large shifts in participants' judgments of performance. The results illustrate the power of social context to strongly influence individuals' judgments of even large amounts of relevant, important information, and they support the categorization of presidential debates as ambiguous stimuli, fertile ground for informational social influence.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)165-192
    Number of pages28
    JournalPolitical Psychology
    Volume28
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 1 2007

    Keywords

    • Ambiguity
    • Conformity
    • Informational social influence
    • Political communication
    • Presidential debates

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Clinical Psychology
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science and International Relations

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