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A lesson in unpopular opinions and online paid surveys

Have you ever wondered how or why people with outlandish opinions can be so vocal about their stances? You probably have one or two friends or acquaintances on Facebook that regularly communicate some less-than-savory thoughts about an issue. Moreover, they may even share these opinions more wholeheartedly after discovering the stance isn't all that popular.

Are these isolated incidents, or is there a greater and more common phenomenon at play here? A study by Richard Petty, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University, suggests the latter, according to Live Science.

What's going on here, and how can this be applied to paid surveys, polls and more issues you face?

Pride in proving people wrong
Conventional wisdom holds that people usually feel empowered when they discover the majority of others hold the same beliefs they do. Popular opinion is enough to sway beliefs on a topic in and of itself, as long as you haven't already studied the subject. 

For example, if you were just about to test a few new computers you had never heard of and found that 90 percent of people didn't like computer A, you would be more inclined to dislike that choice as well. The issue doesn't matter much, so why not go with the crowd?

However, popular opinion doesn't have this same swaying effect if you've already formulated a stance, according to Live Science, especially if your stance is a weak one. In fact, Petty's analysis showed that respondents with weak stances support those stances more strongly after learning they have a minority opinion.

"It may be that you feel proud, because you were able to disprove, in your own mind, an opinion that most people have accepted," Petty told Live Science. "You actually become doubly sure you were right."

For example, say someone convinced you that computer A was a bad choice simply because it looked ugly. It may work faster and have a better operating system, but it's ugly. Clearly it's a bad computer.

Now, according to the study, if you were convinced by this argument but then discovered that 90 percent of people actually liked computer A, you would still believe it's a bad computer. In fact, you'd probably more adamantly support that it's bad.

What does this mean for surveys and polls?
Ultimately, this is a lesson in objectivity. When you don't know much about a topic while completing surveys for money or when you're formulating a stance about politics, it may be to your benefit to study the facts in the most unbiased manner possible and without conducting research about popular opinions. That's the best way to keep from simply following the crowd or feeling empowered when your biased data isn't supported by the masses.

If you want to give the best feedback while completing a product survey, just review the product yourself. Let your individual opinion shine.


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