Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being in the Minority ... Makes You Slow

He who hesitates ... must be in the minority.

This new study, at least from what I can tell from only the abstract, does a whole lot of things right.
  1. First, it uses the first rule of crafting an academic title -- come up with something cover, toss in a colon, and finish with what the study is really all about.  In this case, the title was: "Hesitation Blues: Does Minority Opinion Status Lead to Delayed Responses?"  Titular colonicity at its best.
  2. The study is also on a topic I really like, how those in the majority or the minority differ.  There's a long and storied history of this work that ranges from psychology to political science to, yes, even mass communication.
  3. Plus it hits on a favorite theoretical area of mine, spiral of silence, or at least I think it does.  Hard to tell from only the abstract.
  4. And finally, it uses a neat measurement scheme, in this case response latencies (academese for, best I can tell, how long it takes people to respond as either liking or disliking something.
As I write this at home, I cannot access the article, at least not without paying some obscenely high amount of money for a communications study.  I'll try again from the office, but this journal, Communication Research, is not all that user friendly when it comes to digital access. And the study doesn't seem to directly address what people know as much as it addresses how they respond to a stimuli based on their majority or minority status. 

Perhaps knowledge pops up as one of the "individual differences" found to moderate the effect.  In all, this appears to verify how being in the minority on an issue, long believed to influence people to not speak out as often, may have at its root a caution about speaking out that is measurable by very subtle methods.  Neat.

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