restricted access Status, Numbers and Influence

We develop a theoretical model of social influence in n-person groups. We argue that disagreement between group members introduces uncertainty into the social situation, and this uncertainty motivates people to use status characteristics to evaluate the merits of a particular opinion. Our model takes the numerical distribution of opinions and the relative status of the opinion holders as factors that contribute to social influence, such that the effect of status becomes stronger as uncertainty about a particular position rises due to the distribution of opinions in the group. Our theoretical model implies three hypotheses, which we empirically evaluate with data from a controlled laboratory experiment. The results support the theoretical model. We conclude with limitations, implications and several directions for future research.