Dr. Edith Shalev
Leaders or Followers? Sociometric Status is Positively Associated with Conformity to Group Opinion
Past research suggests that individuals with high sociometric status have more influence over other’s opinions and choices, and greater influence on group decisions than their peers. But are higher status individuals also less influenced than their peers by the collective opinions of their group? The present research examines the association between sociometric status and susceptibility to group opinion in the context of a realistic social network with opinion polls. We find that higher-status individuals are actually more likely than lower-status individuals to conform to the average group opinion. Importantly, these findings emerge only when using other-reported and degree centrality measures of status, but not when using self-reported status. Furthermore, this relationship cannot be explained by a “follow the leader” effect: higher status individuals did not simply respond to opinion polls prior to lower status individuals. Similar results were obtained in a second study, conducted in an offline group setting.