Influences of contextual information and social connectedness on political behavior
Johnson, Pressley Martin
Stein, Robert M.
Doctor of Philosophy
Should people listen to their neighbors' political advice? Many models of social influence cast the people in an individual's social environment as monitoring their opinions and enforcing conformity. However, it is not necessarily clear that these neighbors have an incentive to bear costs associated with the coercion of political deviants. I suggest social influence may be the result of individual decisions to pursue benefits associated with following the advice of actors who have provided useful information in the past. I use original public opinion data, survey-based experiments, and social experiments conducted in a behavioral research laboratory to examine the effects of an individual's social interactions and observations of others, social connectedness resulting from these experiences, and their willingness to trust social sources of information.