Quick Hit: Can you move your close friends away from a positive opinion of their candidate?
Recent research by Daniel Brannon and Adriana Samper of Arizona State University studied product evaluations and how those evaluations change following contrasting information by people close to the evaluator. They asked the question – if I had a positive opinion of a product or service, how easily could a contrasting, negative opinion by someone close to me move my evaluation downward? Conversely, if I had a negative opinion to begin with, how easily could my opinion be made more positive when presented with a positive opinion by a close friend?
Importantly, the results (in multiple experiments) were clear: People who started out negative could be moved upward when presented (by a close friend) with contrasting information – but people who started out with a positive evaluation generally did not move downward.
What’s most interesting about this research is the concept that it is easier for a close friend to remediate a negative opinion than to create one. If I like a product or service, it’s going to be difficult for you to dislodge my good feelings. However, if I had a bad experience or evaluation, you have a better shot at improving my opinion.
This has huge implications in the political spectrum – and may be a subject of a deeper dive in future PsyPology editions.
First, we constantly ask people to talk to their friends and family about candidates/causes. This study would seem to indicate that when it comes to people close to them – we should ask them to focus on improving the opinions of those who might have negative ones. (i.e. don’t try to convince the Obama lover that he is a bad choice… but focus on why they should improve their opinion on Romney.)
This also has implications for acquisition and negative work on social media. Will close friends be as affected by the sharing of negative information as positive information? This study would indicate they wouldn’t, and that we should perhaps have a different tone for ads coming from (us – as distant to them) vs. posts we want them to share to their close friends (and boosted accordingly).
Brannon did note to us that the proximity of the relationship matters – it’s something he’s studying in his research – and that these findings were specifically relevant to people considered close to the subject.