When it looks like an idea or action is much more popular than it is, it greatly increases the likelihood that others will adopt it too. In other words, the majority illusion may be a driving force behind why something eventually becomes truly popular. For example, one of the study’s researchers, Kristina Lerman, believes the majority illusion was a factor in the Arab Spring gaining momentum and the shift in public opinion toward same-sex marriage.
And yet under insidious applications, the majority illusion can even cause people to adopt false beliefs or extreme viewpoints without realizing they are rare, which helps explain how fringe political and ideological groups may develop.
Beyond explaining why uncommon beliefs can appear far more popular than they actually are, the majority illusion also explains something we already know – influence depends heavily on having the right connections. But in addition to being well-connected, an individual’s location within a network plays a role in their potential to create the majority illusion.