Minority Social Influence

Minority Influence

  • Minority influence leads to internalisation (public, private, permenant). Three processes:
  • Consistency - Makes others rethink their own views.
    • Synchronic (people in the minority are saying the same thing)
    • Diachronic (they've been saying the same thing for some time)
  • Commitment - Activities must create some risk to the minority to demonstrate commitment to the cause. Helps gain attention (e.g. through extreme activities).
    • Augmentation principle - majority pay even more attention. 
  • Flexibility - Nameth (1986) argued that being consistent and repeating the same arguments and behaviours is seen as rigid and off-putting to the majority. Instead, minority should adapt their point of view and accept reasonable counter-arguments. 
  • Snowball effect - Over time people become 'converted' - switch from the majority to the minority. The more this happens, the faster the rate of conversion. Gradually this minority view becomes the majority and social change has occured. 
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Key Study - Moscovici et al. (1969)

Procedure - 

  • A group of 6 people viewed a set of 36 blue-green coloured slides, varying in intensity, then stated whether they were blue or green. 
  • 3 conditions - 
    • Confederates consistently said the slides were green.
    • Confederates were inconsistent about the colour of the slides. 
    • A control group - no confederates. 

Findings - 

  • Consistent minority condition = participants gave the same wrong answer on 8.42% of trials; 32% gave the same answer on at least one trial. 
  • Inconsistent minority condition = agreement fell to 1.25%. 
  • Control group = participants wrongly identified colour 0.25% of the time. 
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Strength - Research support

P - A strength of minority influence is that research evidence demonstrates the importance of consistency. 

E - Moscovici et al. (1969) found a consistent minority opinion had a greater effect on other people than an inconsistent opinion. Also, Wood et al (1994) conducted a meta-analysis of almost 100 similar studies and found that minorities seen as being consistent were the most influential. 

CA - However, the applications of this concept are limited as real-life situations are more complicated. The difference is about more than just numbers. Majorities usually have power and status whilst minorities are committed and tight-knit groups whose members know and support each other. Minority influence research rarely reflects on the dynamics of these groups so findings may not apply to real-life minority influence situations which exert a more powerful influence. 

E - Nevertheless, the research support confirms that consistency is a major factor in minority influence. 

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Strength - Research Support

P - Another strength is that research evidence shows that change to the minority position involves deeper thought. 

E - Martin et al (2003) gave participants a message supporting a particular viewpoint, and attitudes were measured. Then they heard an endorsement of the view from either a minority or majority. Finally, they heard a conflicting view and attitudes were measured again. They found that people were less willing to change their opinions to the new conflicting view if they had listened to the minority group than if they had listened to the majority group. 

E - This suggests that the minority message had been more deeply processed and had a more enduring effect. 

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Limitation - Artificial Tasks

P - A limitation is that minority influence research often involves artificial tasks. 

E - Moscovici's task was identifying the colour of a slide, far removed from how minorities try to change public opinion in real-life. In jury decision-making and political campaigning, outcomes are vastly more important, maybe a matter of life or death. 

CA - However, the artificial tasks mean that the experiments have high internal validity as the researcher can be sure that the independant variables caused the change in the dependant variable as they would have been able to keep control over any extraneous factors that might arise. 

E - Nevertheless, the findings of the studies lack external validity and are limited in what they tell us about how minority influence works in real-life situations. 

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