The effects of likes on public opinion perception and personal opinion

  • 1 Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 2 Christiane Eilders, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Berlin, Germany
Pablo Porten-Cheé
  • Corresponding author
  • Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
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and Christiane Eilders
  • Christiane Eilders, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Department of Social Sciences, Berlin, Germany
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Abstract

Drawing on the spiral of silence theory and heuristic information processing, we contend that individuals use likes as sources for assessing public opinion. We further argue that individuals may even adapt their personal opinions to the tenor reflected in those cues. The assumptions were tested using data from an experiment involving 501 participants, who encountered media items on two issues with or without likes. The findings show that respondents inferred public opinion from the media bias if it was supported by likes, however, only in cases of high levels of fear of social isolation. Respondents further adapted their personal opinion to the media bias if it was supported by likes.

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