We like to think that we’re independent-minded, but the truth is the people around us can influence the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, and the opinions we hold. However, according to a new study, the effect only lasts for three days.
The study, published in Psychological Science, had a bunch of college students rate the attractiveness of 280 young women on an eight point scale. Then, the students were shown the “average” rating for each women—and we put “average” in quotes because the researchers arranged it so that only 25% of any student’s responses matched the average. The rest of the pictures were one to three points above or below that the student rated.
Students were then brought back into the lab to re-rate the pictures one day, two days, three day, or three months after the initial test. Those brought back in after a few days changed their answers to more closely correspond with the fictitious “averages” they were shown upon initial testing. Those brought back in after three months, however, showed no evidence of being swayed by group opinion.
So why only three days? Researchers aren’t sure—but we’d suggest it might also be interesting to look at how constant group opinion influences a persons actual opinion. Because if there’s anything we’ve learned from time spent on the internet, it’s that people with strong opinions don’t share them just once.