The Intrinsic Cost of Dissent

AbstractConsensus seeking – abandoning one’s own judgment to align with a group majority – is a fundamental feature of human social interaction. Notably, such striving for majority affiliation often occurs in the absence of any apparent economic or social gain, suggesting that achieving consensus might have intrinsic value. Here, we examine the affective properties of consensus decisions by assessing the transfer of valence to concomitant stimuli. Specifically, in two studies, we show that contexts repeatedly paired with consensus decisions are rated as more likable, and selected more frequently in a two-alternative forced choice test, than are contexts repeatedly paired with dissent from a unanimous majority. In the second study, we rule out inferences about the accuracy of the majority opinion as the basis for such evaluative changes. Our results suggest that an intrinsic value of consensus, or cost of dissent, may motivate and reinforce social conformity.


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