Expressing Deviant Opinions: Believing You Are in the Majority Helps

Expressing Deviant Opinions: Believing You Are in the Majority Helps

By
Dale T. Miller, Kimberly Rios Morrison
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. July
2009, Vol. 45, Issue 4, Pages 740–747

Three studies tested whether group members whose opinions differ from the average member’s opinion in the direction of the group prototype (“descriptive norm deviants”) are more vocal than those whose opinions differ in the opposite direction (“prescriptive norm deviants”), due to the former’s erroneous belief that their opinions are popular. Study 1 found that descriptive norm deviants were more comfortable expressing their opinions than prescriptive norm deviants, and that this effect was partially mediated by perceived commonness of one’s opinion. Studies 2 and 3 provided experimental evidence that the relationship between deviance direction and comfort was driven by perceptions of consensus. When participants were led to believe that most other group members held a prescriptive (as opposed to descriptive) norm deviant position, the relationship between deviance direction and comfort was attenuated, especially among those who identified strongly with their ingroup. Implications of these findings for group dynamics, pluralistic ignorance, and social norms are discussed.