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Social Motivations and Political Attitudes: Could Peer Pressure Be a Good Thing?

Lindsey Levitan, Department of Psychology

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 at 3:30 pm
Byrd Center for Legislative Studies Auditorium

As the presidential election nears, and partisan rhetoric deepens, one wonders what makes some people so vehement and their attitudes so entrenched? And why are others so much more flexible in their attitudes and beliefs? The current presentation examines the role of social influence in strengthening or weakening our views. Research demonstrates that when those close to us are like-minded, we become more certain and inflexible in our views, whereas when others disagree, we become more open to alternate perspectives, and more likely to change our minds. The current research focuses on the motivations behind this change, and shows that disagreeing with others motivates us to think harder about issues, and seek out more information when those who are close to us disagree, and change our views accordingly. When those around us are like-minded, on the other hand, we feel constrained to stay in step with the group. Thus, close ties with people who do not share our views leads to more flexible views that are actually more likely to be well-reasoned, and well-informed.


Dr. Levitan is an assistant professor of psychology at Shepherd University. She currently serves as the Research Exposure Coordinator and the Psychology Club faculty advisor. Prior to serving at Shepherd University, she was an assistant professor of political science at Stony Brook University. Dr. Levitan received her PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Chicago. Her research is in the area of social influence, particularly examining the social roots of political attitudes and behavior. Her most recent publications appear in the journals Political Behavior, and Political Psychology.