Socially motivated projection: Need to belong increases perceived opinion consensus on important issues



In three studies, we tested whether the need to belong would motivate people to perceive consensus for their opinions on important social issues. In Study 1, a nationally representative telephone survey, participants with a high dispositional need to belong perceived greater consensus for their opinions on immigrant naturalization than did those with a low need to belong. However, this relationship was strongest among participants who reported that the issue was personally important to them. In Study 2, participants primed with rejection-related (versus acceptance-related) words, and who reported high levels of issue importance, demonstrated greater false consensus for their opinions on a proposed alcohol tax increase. In Study 3, participants who received random feedback that they held a common (versus uncommon) opinion had a lower subsequent need to belong when the issue was important to them, suggesting that consensus perceptions can in fact mitigate belongingness needs. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.