Social Influence, Minority Influence, Social Change

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  • Created on: 07-05-16 14:59

Resistance to Social Influence


Conformity is reduced by social support. This means it is reduced if others are not conforming. Asch's research shows that the dissenting peer doesn't have to give to right answer, just one that is different from the rest. The dissenter acts as a model as by not following the majority others are more likely to follow their own conscience. However, the effect is not long lasting. Asch's study showed that when the dissenter started conforming again so did the naive participant.

Obedience is also reduced by social support. The pressure to obey an order is reduced if some one else is seen disobeying. In Milgram's research it was shown that independent behaviour increased in the disobedient peer condition. The participant doe not necassarily follow the peer but the dissenter's disobiedience allows the participant to act from their own conscience.

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Resistance to Social Influence Contin.


Internal locus of cotrol is placing control with themselves; internals believe that things that happen to them are largely controlled by themselves. Whereas external locus of control is lacing control with others; externals believe that things that happen to them are outside their control. There is a continuum. This means that locus of control is not just categorised as internal and external but goes from high internal at one end and high external at the other - low internal and low external are in between. 

Internals are more likely to resist the pressures to conform or obey. This is because if someone takes responsibility for their actions they are more likely to base decisions on their own beliefs. Also people with high internal locus of control are more self confident, more achievement oriented, have higher intelligence and less need for social approval.

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Resistance to Social Influence Eval. Strengths

There is research support - Resistance to conformity - Allen and Levine (1971) found independence increased with one dissenter in and Asch-type study. This occured even when the dissenter had thick glasses on and claimed to have vision problems - meaning they cannot see the lines clearly. Resistence is not motivated by following what someone else says but enables someone to be free of pressure from the majority. - Resistence to obedience - Gamson (1982) found higher levels of independent behaviour than Milgram did. The participants were in groups and 29 out of 33 participants 'rebelled'. This shows peer support is linked to resistence - High reliability

There is research support for the link between locus of control and resistence to obedience - Holland (1967) repeated Milgram's study and measured whether participants were internals or externals. 37% of internals did not continue to the highest voltage; 23% of externals didn't. Internals showed greater resistence. - High validity

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Resistance to Social Influence Eval. Limitations

Not all research supports the link between loccus of control and resistence - Twenge (2004) analysed dara from American locus of control studies over 40 years, showing people have become more independent and more external. If resistance was linked to internal locus of control we would expect people to beome more internal

The role of locus of control in resistence may be overexaggerated - Rotter (1982) found that locus of conrol is only important in new situations; it has little influence over familiar situations. This means that people who conformed/obeyed in specific situations before are likely to do so again

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Minority Influence

This is when a minority changes the opinions of the majority through internalisation. There are three processes involved: consistency, commitment and flexibility.

Consistency means the minority's view gains more interest. There are two kinds of consistency: synchronic consistency and diachronic consistency. Synchronic consistency is when people in the minority are all saying the same thing. Diachronic consistency is when the minority has been saying the same thing for some time.

Commitment helps to gain attention. Activities have to create some risk to the minority to demonstrate commiment to the cause. This leads to the augmentation principle where the majority pays even more attention.

Flexibility needs to be balanced with consistency so the minority don't appear rigid. A mix of flexibility and consistency is needed to make compromises with the majority. The minority must adapt their point of view and accept reasonable counter arguments.

This all leads to the snow ball effect which is when the minority becomes the majority. Over time more people will have 'converted'. The more this happens the faster the rate of conversion gets and gradually the minority becomes the majority and social change has occured.

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Moscovici (1969)

AIM           To see whether a consistent minority of participants could influence a majority to give an incorrect answer in a colour perception test

PARTICIPANT                                 192 participants

PROCEDURE              32 groups of 4 participants and 2 confeerates viewed a set of 36 blue-green coloured slides varying in intensity. They were asked to state whethr the slides were blue or green. The study had three conditions: confederates consistently said the slides were green, confederates were inconsistent about the colour of the slides and a control condition where there was no confederates.

FINDINGS   In the consisent minority condition participants gave the same wrong answer in 8.42% of the trials and 32% gave the wrong answer at least once. In the inconsistent minority condition participants gave the same wrong answer in 1.25% of the trials. In the control group the wrong answer was given 0.25% of the time.

CONCLUSION            Consistency has a major impact on minority influence

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Minority Influence Eval. Strengths

Research evidence shows the importance of consistency - Moscovici (1969) found a consistent minority opinion has a greater effect on popel than inconsistent opinion. Wood (1994) conducted a meta-analysis of almost 100 similar studies and found minorities that were consistent had the most influence. This shows consistency is a major factor in minority influence

Research supports the involvement of internalisation in minority influence - Moscovici conducted a variation of his study where participants wrote down their responses. Aggreement with the minority was higher. This shows internalisation took place. The majority were reluctant to admit their 'conversion' publically. This shows people may be influenced by the minority but not admit it

Research evidence shows change to minority position involves deeper thought - Martin (2003) gave participants a message supporting a particular viewpoint and measured attitudes. The participants then heard an endorsement of the view from either a minority or majority. They then heard a conflicting view and the attitudes were measured again. It was found people were less willing to change their opinions to the new conflicting view if the first view was put forward by a minority rather than a majority. This suggests that the minority message had been more deeply processed and had an enduring effect

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Minority Influence Eval. Limitations

Research often involves artificial tasks - Moscovici's task involved identifying the colour of slides. This cannot be generalised to how minorities try to change the opinion of the majority in real life situations. The decisions influenced by a minority in real life are more important, for example decisions in a jury or in political campaigns - Lack external validity

Applications of minority influence research are limited - Studies make a clear distinction between majority and minority but in real life it is more complicated. The difference between the two is more than the amount of supporters but includes the status of the supporters. Majorities tend to have power and status whereas minorities tend to be more committed and 'tight-knit' groups where the members know and support each other. Research rarely reflects on the dynamics of the groups - Lacks ecological validity

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Social Influence and Social Change


Segergation in the 1950s America: places like schools and restaurants in southern states were exclusively for whites. Civil rights marches drew attention to the situation by providing social proof of the problem.

It was a minority that took place in the march but they were consistent in their message and intent. This attention caused people that had accepted the status quo to begin to think more about the unjustness of it. (Consistency and deeper processing)

'Freedom riders' were mixed racial groups that got on buses in the south to challenge separate seating for black people. A lot of them were beaten and suffered mob violence. Civil rights activsts gradually got the attention of the US government. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed. (Augmentation principle and the snowball effect)

Social cryptomnesia occured. This means that people remebered the change happening but not how it got to that point. 

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Social Influence and Social Change Contin.


Dissenters make social change more likely. Asch used a confederate that always gave the correct answer or one that was different from the rest of the group. This broke down the power of the majority and encouraged others to dissent. This demonstrates potential for social change.

Environmetal and health campaigns exploit conformity using normative social influence; they provide information about what others are doing. Social change is encouraged by drawing attention to the actions of the majority.


Disobedient models make change more likely. In Milgrams variations when a confederate refused to give shocks the participants obedience dropped. Gradual commitment leads to 'drift'. Zimbardo (2007) suggested that once a small instruction is obeyed it becomes more difficult to resist a bigger on. People 'drift' into a new kind of behviour.

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Social Influence, Social Change Eval. Strengths

Research support for the role of normative social influence in social change - Nolan (2008) hung messages on the front doors of houses. The key message was most residents are trying to reduce energy usage. There was significant decreases in energy use compared to the control group that had messages to save energy but no reference to others behaviour. This shows that conformity can lead to social change through normative socail influence - High external validity

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Social Influence, Social Change Eval. Limitations

The nature of deeper procesing has ben questioned - Mackie (1987) argued that majority influence (rather than minority influence) creates deeper processing if someone does not share their views. This is because people believe that others think the same way they do and are forced to think hard about their beliefs when they find a majority disagrees - Lacks validity

Identification is an important variable overlooked in minority influence research - Bashir (2013) suggested that people are less likely to behave in environmentally friendly ways because they want to avoid the label of minority environmentalists. Participants rated environmental activists negatively. This means that being able to identify with a minority grojup is just as important as agreeing with their views

Minority influence is only indirectly effective in creating social change - Nemeth (1986) suggested the effect of minority influence are indirect and delayed. This means that the majority is only influences on matters related to the central issue and not the issue itself and that the effects are not seen for some time. Minority influence is limited as an explanation to social change because it shows that effects are fragile and its role in social influence is narrow

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