Social influence research essay

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Holly Winskell
Saturday, April 20th `13
Discuss how social influence research helps us to
understand social change. (12)
The term social change refers to the process where societies alter the norms
over a period of time. This change has to start from a minority, a small group of
people, or even an individual that have a, at that point often, unorthodox view.
These people often have an internal locus of control, low levels of
authoritarianism or high levels of self-confidence.
Moscovici argued that a minority could have a significant impact on a majority
belief. Moscovici, carried out a lab experiment, he asked groups of 6
participants to express aloud what colour they thought the slide was. This was
an unambiguous task as each slide was obviously blue. There were two
confederates to make up the minority. Moscovici's independent variable was
the consistency of which the confederates said the blue slide was green. They
either said it was green every time or two thirds of the time this was the
dependent variable and was measured. The majority also said green 8% of the
time when the minority was consistent; however only 1% when the minority
was inconsistent. This showed that consistency does have an effect on social
change. However this experiment lacks mundane realism as we would not find
a task such as this in normal day-to-day life. Moscovici's experiment took place
in a lab, meaning it has high levels of control and consequently few extraneous
variables, and shows internal validity. Another draw back of this study is the
ratio of majority too minority as it stands very large at 4:2.
Nemeth et al argued that consistency alone could not bring about minority
influence. Nemeth consequently did an altered version of Moscovici's study. In
this study confederates could answer; blue, blue-green or green. This was done
with 3 conditions. The most effective of which, the confederates would answer
green on the bright slides and blue-green on the darker slides. This condition
influenced 21% of the majority. The other two conditions where simply that
confederates answered blue-green on half the slides or green for all the slides.
Nemeth concluded that it was possible to be too consistent, and this would
make it seem unrealistic.
Moscovici then conducted a meta analysis of all there research, he decided that
in order to create a significant change in majority, the minority must display;
consistency, flexibility, commitment & relevance. Martin then researched into
`ingroups' & `outgroups' and found that if a minority came from an outgroup
they are less likely to conform.


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