Take the 2-minute tour ×
Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Poll* questions if phrased in a way to suggest a fact to the reader, may force the person to think of explanations to support the view expressed in the question. This belief may then last on its own because of belief perseverance.

For example, if a poll ask questions of the form :

How do you think 90% of people behave in {situation}?

or, political questions

Which party do you believe is trusted by over 70% of the voters? Options:{Plausible Party A} {Small unknown party B}

Or from the opposition party,

Which party do people relate to when thinking of corruption? Options: {Ruling Party} {Small unknown party}

Or, another of the commercial flavour,

Which company comes to the mind of 70% of the people when they think of clean water? Options : {Big company A} {Small unknown company B}

By choosing options wisely, the poll creator can force certain ideas into the minds of individuals under the banner of "popular opinion" without them even realising it. By trying to rationalise why or how the most likely option is correct, individuals giving the poll will essentially think up of or create evidence. This will then further reinforce and plant the suggested idea with varying degrees of permanence.

So, does the concept of belief permanence thus imply (as explained above) that polls can be used to plant incorrect ideas/information in people?

Also, can polls thereby be an effective marketing technique for companies and/or political parties when trying to shape public opinion?

By poll, I mean any form of interaction which involves Q&A with or without the provision of correct feedback at the end. I do not mean only elections or opinion polls.

share|improve this question
There certainly seems to be an assumption among those who make/use polls that their results can create belief perseverance; it seems not illogical to think this would extend to taking the poll alone. I'm looking forward to the answers on this one! –  Krysta Aug 30 '13 at 13:10
Yes, when I find myself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect - Mark Twain –  Randy Aug 30 '13 at 16:57

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.