Uncertainty and the Influence of Group Norms in the Attitude-Behaviour Relationship

Smith, J., Hogg, M., Martin, R., & Terry, D. (2007). Uncertainty and the influence of group norms in the attitude-behaviour relationship. British Journal of Social Psychology, 46(4), 769-792. doi:10.1348/014466606X164439.

Two studies were conducted to examine the impact of subjective uncertainty on conformity to group norms in the attitude-behaviour context. In both studies, subjective uncertainty was manipulated using a deliberative mindset manipulation (McGregor, Zanna, Holmes, & Spencer, 2001). In Study 1 (N = 106), participants were exposed to either an attitude-congruent or an attitude-incongruent in-group norm. In Study 2 (N = 83), participants were exposed to either a congruent, incongruent, or an ambiguous in-group norm. Ranges of attitude-behaviour outcomes, including attitude-intention consistency and change in attitude-certainty, were assessed. In both studies, levels of group-normative behaviour varied as a function of uncertainty condition. In Study 1, conformity to group norms, as evidenced by variations in the level of attitude-intention consistency, was observed only in the high uncertainty condition. In Study 2, exposure to an ambiguous norm had different effects for those in the low and the high uncertainty conditions. In the low uncertainty condition, greatest conformity was observed in the attitude-congruent norm condition compared with an attitude-congruent or ambiguous norm. In contrast, individuals in the high uncertainty condition displayed greatest conformity when exposed to either an attitude-congruent or an ambiguous in-group norm. The implications of these results for the role of subjective uncertainty in social influence processes are discussed.

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