The Dual Effect of Perceived Centrality on Conformity to Group Preference
75 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 1, 2019
Central consumers — consumers with many ties in their social network — can be influential within their communities. Marketers keenly target them and expect to profit from their word-of-mouth. However, does the central consumer indeed shape the group’s preference, or alternatively, gravitate toward the popular opinion of the group? Extant research has yielded mixed findings, portraying the central consumer sometimes as susceptible and sometimes as impervious to social influence. The current research seeks to reconcile the seemingly inconsistent findings in the literature. To that end, we focus on the psychological states that emanate from the individual’s perception of his/her centrality. We propose a dual effect framework and, across five studies, show that perceived centrality affects conformity to group preferences via two opposing processes: elevated self-perceived status and enhanced identification with the group. Self-perceived status decreases while group-identification increases conformity to group preferences. Accordingly, the net effect of perceived centrality on conformity to group preferences depends on which psychological state, self-perceived status or group identification, is more pronounced.
Keywords: perceived centrality, subjective status, group identification, social influence, group preference
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