Asch’s classic study judging the length of lines demonstrated people will go along with majority opinion even when the answer is clearly wrong. One of the key questions was whether they were just going along with the answers (called ‘compliance’), or whether the majority inﬂuence actually changed their opinions (i.e. they internalised the majority view).
A recent study (Zaki et al., 2011 see BPS digest) provides evidence that people are not just complying. In this study men rated the attractiveness of 180 female faces. When they entered their ratings other peer ratings were displayed which were sometimes much higher and sometimes much lower.
About a half-hour later, the participants rated each of the faces again. The outcome was that their ratings had been influenced by the others’ opinions – when the peer rating was higher than theirs, the participants now rated the faces as more attractive and when the peer rating had been lower, the participants’ ratings were now lower.
Most importantly the researchers had scanned the participants’ brains on the second task. When the participants shifted to a more favourable view, activity was triggered in a reward-related area of the brain (it was rewarding to look at these faces). This wasn’t the case when they shifted to a less favourable view. This shows that the the faces rated attractively by peers had increased in value i.e. the opinions of others had been internalised.