Majority and minority influence in teenagers for different social dilemmas

(1) Tecnologico de Monterrey, Cuernavaca High School, Mexico

The influence of others on changing one’s views is magnified when living in society since cooperation and identification within a social group is necessary for someone to feel accepted. In a previous study done in our high school two years ago, teenagers did not show conformist behavior in non-ambiguous situations. We wanted to evaluate conformity using social dilemmas to continue this previous research. We hypothesized that teenagers would follow others’ influence—changing their initial opinion to belong to the group—particularly with increasing ambiguity of the dilemma. Forty-two high school students were tested by confronting them with three different social dilemmas. The initial position of the students after we presented the dilemmas was identified. Then, students were asked to discuss the dilemma out loud, expressing their initial opinions. Two “confederates” per group, who were previously asked in private to argue against the majority’s opinion, voiced their contradictory opinion. Afterwards, students were asked again for their positions to see if their opinions had changed. We found variations in the proportions of students that changed their initial opinions depending on the dilemma. Furthermore, we found that both majority and minority influence could be responsible for changing the student’s initial position. This change was dependent mainly on moral arguments given by the majority or minority and not by the size of the group. Therefore, we were unable to confirm our initial hypothesis that teenagers would show conformist behavior to feel part of a group, since conversion by minority influence, rather than conformity by majority influence, prevailed.

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