Real and perceived attitude agreement in social networks

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Oct;99(4):611-21. doi: 10.1037/a0020697.


It is often asserted that friends and acquaintances have more similar beliefs and attitudes than do strangers; yet empirical studies disagree over exactly how much diversity of opinion exists within local social networks and, relatedly, how much awareness individuals have of their neighbors' views. This article reports results from a network survey, conducted on the Facebook social networking platform, in which participants were asked about their own political attitudes, as well as their beliefs about their friends' attitudes. Although considerable attitude similarity exists among friends, the results show that friends disagree more than they think they do. In particular, friends are typically unaware of their disagreements, even when they say they discuss the topic, suggesting that discussion is not the primary means by which friends infer each other's views on particular issues. Rather, it appears that respondents infer opinions in part by relying on stereotypes of their friends and in part by projecting their own views. The resulting gap between real and perceived agreement may have implications for the dynamics of political polarization and theories of social influence in general.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Friends*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Politics*
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Perception*
  • Sociometric Techniques
  • United States