The Mere Consensus Approach

The study of social influence phenomena lies at the very heart of Social Psychology. At times, social influence depends on the number of others who endorse a certain position. Then, social psychologists speak of majority or minority influence. Within in this context, we propose that many phenomena studied in social influence research can be reduced to the operation of a single variable, namely consensus. Thus, our mere consensus approach often provides a more parsimonious explanation than do other models. It builds on the assumption that what most others do is an important variable to human beings, and that such consensus information defines minorities and majorities in any context. In empirical research, we found a number of effects of mere consensus on information processing and judgment formation. Consensus biased the processing of issue-related information, causing more favorable thoughts and judgments under high consensus and less favorable thoughts and judgments under low consensus (Erb et al., 1998). These effects were also found when consensus information was provided in form of the result of a public survey, and we have built a model that explains the antecedents and consequences of survey reception based on the individual use of consensus information (Hellmann & Erb, 2015).

We also study conditions when low consensus appears as particularly attractive to targets of influence. In one line of research, we found that a high Need for Uniqueness fosters the social impact of minorities (low consensus) on individual judgments (Imhoff & Erb, 2009). Another line deals with the question whether minority positions are seen as more risky than majority positions (Erb et al., 2015). Last but not least, the mere consensus approach provides answers to the important question under what conditions minority versus majority messages are processed with higher cognitive effort (Erb et al., 2004).

 

Publications

  • Bohner, G., Erb, H.-P. & Siebler, F. (2007). Information processing approaches to persuasion: Integrating assumptions from dual- and single-processing perspectives. In R. Prislin & W. B. Crano (Eds.), Attitudes and persuasion (pp. 161-188). New York: Psychology Press.
  • Bohner, G., Erb, H.-P., Reinhard, M.-A., & Frank, E. (1996).Distinctiveness across topics in minority and majority influence: An attributional analysis and preliminary data. British Journal of Social Psychology, 35, 27-46.
  • Bohner, G., Frank, E., & Erb, H.-P. (1998). Heuristic processing of distinctiveness information in minority and majority influence. European Journal of Social Psychology, 28, 855-860.
  • Darke, P., Chaiken, S., Bohner, G., Einwiller, S., Erb, H.-P., & Hazlewood, D. (1998). Accuracy motivation, consensus information, and the law of large numbers: Effects on attitude judgment in the absence of argumentation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 1205-1215.
  • Erb, H.-P. (1998). Sozialer Einfluss durch Konsens: Werbung mit Meinungsübereinstimmung. Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 29, 156-164.
  • Erb, H.-P. (1997). Information über Konsens beeinflußt kognitive Prozesse bei der Verarbeitung persuasiver Kommunikation. Aachen: Shaker.
  • Erb, H.-P., Bioy, A., & Hilton, D. J. (2002). Choice preferences without inferences: Subconscious priming of risk attitudes. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 15, 251-262.
  • Erb, H.-P., & Bohner, G. (2010). Consensus as a Key: Towards Parsimony in Explaining Minority and Majority Influence In R. Martin & M. Hewstone (Eds.), Minority Influence and Innovation: Antecedents, processes and consequences (pp. 79-103). Hove UK: Psychology Press.
  • Erb, H.-P., & Bohner, G. (2007). Social influence and persuasion: Recent theoretical developments and integrative attemps. In K. Fiedler (Ed.), Frontiers of Social Psychology: Social Communication (pp. 191-221). New York: Psychology Press.
  • Erb, H.-P., & Bohner, G. (2006). Minoritäten. In: H.-W. Bierhoff & D. Frey (Eds.). Handbuch der Psychologie: Sozialpsychologie und Kommunikationspsychologie (pp. 494-503). Göttingen: Hogrefe.
  • Erb, H.-P., & Bohner, G. (2002). Sozialer Einfluss durch Mehrheiten und Minderheiten. In D. Frey & M. Irle (Eds.). Theorien der Sozialpsychologie ;(2nd ed., pp. 47-61). Bern: Huber.
  • Erb, H.-P., & Bohner, G. (2001). Mere consensus effects in minority and majority influence. In C. K. W. De Dreu & N. K. De Vries (Eds.).Group consensus and minority influence (pp. 40-59). Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Erb, H.-P., Bohner, G., Rank, S., & Einwiller, S. (2002). Processing minority and majority communications: The role of conflict with prior attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1172-1182.
  • Erb, H.-P., Bohner, G., Schmälzle, K., & Rank, S. (1998). Beyond conflict and discrepancy: Cognitive bias in minority and majority influence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 620-633.
  • Erb, H.-P., Bohner, G., Werth, L., Hewstone, M., & Reinhard, M.-A., (2006). Large Minorities and Small Majorities: Interactive Effects of Inferred and Explicit Consensus on Attitudes. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 28, 221-231.
  • Erb, H.-P., Bohner, G., & Deutsch, R. (2004). Conformity, Compliance, and Cognitive Bias: What Consensus Effects on Attitudes Can Tell. Unveröffentlichtes Manuskript, Helmut-Schmidt-Universität, Universität der Bundeswehr Hamburg.
  • Erb, H.-P., Hilton, D. J., Bohner, G., & Roffey, L. (2015). The minority decision - A risky choice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 57, 43-50. Online-Zugriff
  • Hellmann, D. F. & Erb, H.-P. (2014). Die Macht der Meinungen. Gehirn und Geist, 6, 22-26.
  • Imhoff, R. & Erb, H.-P. (2009). What motivates non-conformity: Uniqueness seeking blocks majority influence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 309-320.
  • Thoben, D. F., Dickel, N., Bohner, G., & Erb, H.-P. (in press). Mind over matter: Target states, not stimulus characteristics, determine information processing in minority influence. In S. Papastamou, A. Gardikiotis & G. Prodromitis (Eds.), Minority influence. Hove UK: Psychology Press.
  • Thoben, D. F. & Erb, H.-P. (2010). Wie es euch gefällt: Sozialer Einfluss durch Mehrheiten und Minderheiten. In-Mind Magazine, 1(2). Verfügbar unter http://de.in-mind.org/.
last modified Sep 05, 2017 02:00 PM

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