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What is minority influence?

A form of social influence in which a minority of people persuade others to adopt their beliefs, attitudes or behaviours. Leads to internalisation of conversion, in which private attitudes are changed as well as public behaviours.


What is the difference between minority influence and majority influence?

Minority influence refers to situations where one person or a small group of people influences the beliefs and behaviour of other people. This is distinct from majority influence where it is the majority doing the influencing.

With majority influence people identify with the majority and try to 'fit in' without scrutinising the message. Minority influence creates a conversion process whereby people scrutinise the message and want to understand why the minority hold this position and internalise the minority's point of view.


What type of conformity creates conversion?



What three factors are important in achieving minority influence?

Consistency, commitment and flexibility.


Describe the role of consistency in minority influence

Over time, the consistency in the minority's views increases the amount of interest from other people. This consistency might be agreement between people in the minority group (they're all saying they same thing), and/or consistency over time (they've been saying the same thing for some time now).

Such consistency makes other people start to rethink their own views ('maybe they've got a point if they all think this way' or 'maybe they've got a point if they have kept saying it')


Explain the role of commitment in minority influence

Sometimes minorities engage in quite extreme activities to draw attention to their views. It is important that these extreme activities pose some risk to the minority because this demonstrates commitment to the cause.

Majority group members then pay even more attention ('wow, he must really believe in what he's saying so perhaps I ought to consider his view'). This is called the augmentation principle.


Describe what role flexibility plays in minority influence

Consistency is not the only important factor in minority influence because it can be interpreted negatively. Being extremely consistent and repeating the same arguments and behaviours again and again can be seen as rigid, unbending and inflexible.

This is off-putting to the majority and unlikely to result in any conversions to the minority position. Instead, members of the minority need to be prepared to adapt their point of view and accept reasonable and valid counter-arguments. They key is to strike a balance between consistency and flexibility.


What study provides supporting research evidence for the importance of consistency in minority influence?

Moscovici et al


Describe the procedure and the findings of Moscovivi's study into the importance of consistency in minority influence

A group of six people was asked to view a set of 36 blue coloured slides that varied in intensity and then state whether the slides were blue or green. In each group there were four real participants and two confederates (so the confederates were the minority).

In the consistent condition the two confederates called the blue slides green on every trial. In the inconsistent condition, the confederates called the slides green on two thirds of the trials and blue on the remaining one third of the trials.
In the control condition there were no confederates and ally they had to do was identify the colour of each slide.

The findings showed that the consistent minority influenced the real participants to say 'green' on 8% of the trials. The inconsistent minority exerted very little influence and did not differ significantly from the control group.

So we can conclude that although a small figure, the finding in the consistent condition is significantly higher than the inconsistent condition and supports the role of consistency in minority influence.


Describe research support for internalisation

In a variation of Moscovici's blue-green slide study, participants were allowed to write their answers down, so their responses were private, rather that stated out loud.

Surprisingly, private agreement with the minority position was greater in these circumstances- so were being convinced by the minority's argument and changing their own views, but were reluctant to admit this publicly.

Moscovici thought that this was probably because they didn't want to be associated with a minority position, for fear of being considered 'radical', or 'awkward', or even 'a bit weird'.

This finding confirms that conversion is private internalisation of the minority's message. It is possible to convert to a minority's view without acknowledging it publicly.


What research study provides support for flexibility?

Nemeth and Brilmayer's jury simulation


Describe Nemeth and Brilmayer's study and how it supports flexibility

Nemeth and Brilmayer studies the role of flexibility in a simulated jury situation where group members had to discuss how much compensation they were going to pay someone who had been in a ski lift accident. When a confederate, acting as a consistent minority, argued for a low amount and refused to change his mind, he had no effect on the majority.

However when he compromised a little and moved to offering slightly more, the majority changed their opinion to a lower amount. This shows that minorities need to be flexible to be persuasive.


How is the use of artificial tasks a limitation of minority influence research?

A limitation of minority influence research is that the tasks involved such as identifying the colour of a a slide are highly artificial. Research is therefore far removed from how minorities attempt to change the behaviour of majorities in real life. In cases such as jury decision making and political campaigning, the outcomes are vastly more important, sometimes even literally a matter of life or death.

This means findings of minority influence studies such as Moscovici's are lacking in external validity and are limited in what they can tell us about how minority influence works in real-life social situations.


Does research into minority influence have any real world applications?

Research studies usually make a very clear and obvious distinction between the majority and the minority. But a significant limitation is that real life social influence situations are much more complicated than this.

There is more involved in the difference between a minority and a majority than just numbers. For example, majorities usually have a lot more power and status than minorities. Minorities are very committed to their causes - they have to be because they often face very hostile opposition.

On the other hand, they can be tight-knit groups whose members know each other very well and frequently turn to each other for support.