Have you ever noticed that opinions expressed by individuals over the media seem to slant toward the extreme?
If so, your observation confirms a new study that discovers individuals with relatively extreme opinions are more willing to publicly share their views than those with more a moderate perspective.
The key is that the extremists have to believe that more people share their views than actually do, the research found.
The results may offer one possible explanation for our fractured political climate in the United States, where extreme liberal and conservative opinions often seem to dominate.
“When people with extreme views have this false sense that they are in the majority, they are more willing to express themselves,” said Kimberly Rios Morrison, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University.
How do people with extreme views believe they are in the majority?
This can happen in groups that tend to lean moderately in one direction on an issue. Those that take the extreme version of their group’s viewpoint may believe that they actually represent the true views of their group, Morrison said.
One example is views about alcohol use among college students.
In a series of studies, Morrison and her co-author found that college students who were extremely pro-alcohol were more likely to express their opinions than others, even though most students surveyed were moderate in their views about alcohol use.
“Students who were stridently pro-alcohol tended to think that their opinion was much more popular than it actually was,” she said. “They seemed to buy into the stereotype that college students are very comfortable with alcohol use.”
Morrison conducted the study with Dale Miller of Stanford University. Their research appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Source: Ohio State University