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Minority Influence: a form of social influence where a persuasive minority exerts pressure to
change the attitudes, beliefs or behaviours of the majority. Minorities are most influential when they
appear consistent and principled.
Key Study: Mascovovici et al. (1969)
Aim: To see whether a consistent minority could influence a majority to give an incorrect answer in a
Procedure: Six participants at a time, of which two were accomplices of the experimenter, estimated
the colour of 36 slides, which were the colour blue but at differing brightness. There were two
Consistent- the accomplices called the slides green on all trials.
Inconsistent- the accomplices called the slides green 24 times, and blue 12 times.
Findings: Participants of the consistent condition called the slides green in 8.4 per cent of the trials
and 32 per cent of these participants called the slide green at least once. Participants of the
inconsistent condition called the slides green on only 1.3 per cent of the trials.
Behavioural styles of influential minorities
Mascovici (1985) indentified the behavioural styles which minorities must possess if they are to exert
social influence on majorities:
Consistency- They must be consistent in their opposition to the majority.
Not dogmatic- They must not appear dogmatic by rigidly reiterating the same arguments.
They need to demonstrate a degree of flexibility.
Other psychologists (e.g. Hogg and Vaughan 1998) have also claimed that minorities are more likely
to be influential if they are seen to:
Be acting from principle (not out of self-interest)
Have made sacrifices in order to maintain their position
Be similar to the majority in terms of class, age and gender
Advocate views that are consistent with current social trends
Why do people yield to minority influence?
Consistency- is generally recognised as the most important factor for a minority to be
influential. There are two types of consistency:
- Intra-individual, where a person maintains a consistent position over time.
- Inter-individual, where there is agreement among members of the minority group.
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If members of a minority fail to demonstrate either of these forms of consistency, the
majority is unlikely to pay them much attention.
The snowball effect- The term snowball effect (Van Avermaet 1996) is used to describe
what sometimes happens in minority influence. Once a few members of the majority move
toward the minority position, then the influence of the minority begins to gather momentum
as more people gradually pay attention to the potential correctness of the minority view.…read more