Majority and Minority Influence Notes

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  • Created on: 20-01-13 04:26

Majority and Minority Influence

Conformity can be defined as yielding to group pressures in terms of our expressed attitudes or behaviour.

Social influence - group or individual influence to modify thinking, attitudes and/or behaviours of others.

Majority influence - people adopt the behaviour etc. of the majority after being exposed to their values or behaviour

Minority influence - majority is influenced to accept the beliefs or behaviours of a minority

Compliance - publically yielding to group pressure

Internalisation - privately yielding to group pressure

Normative - conforming with the desire to be accepted

Informational - conforming with the desire to be right

Majority Influence

Rodney King was assaulted by four LA police officers. The assault was videotaped by a local resident, and shown in court to jurors. In spite of the obvious brutality from the police Rodney in the tape, one of the jurors admitted that she changed her vote from guilty to not-guilty because of group pressure. This is a case of when majority influence is undesirable. Group decisions can lead people to deny the evidence in front of their eyes.

On the other hand, majority influence cna be desirable and needed so we can all lively safely together, and learn from those more knowledgeable. Also, we want to fit into society.

Jennes (1932) asked students to estimate the number of beans in a bottle and then arranged for them to discuss their guesses witha a group. Later, when they were asked to give their estimates again, he found that their individual judgements have converged towards the group estimate. The students allowed the percieved superior knowledge of others to influence their estimates. (Informational social influence effect)

Minority Influence

Moscovici disagreed with the assumption that majority influence was stronger than minority influence. Minorities such as revolutionary groups and leaders have sometimes changed the course of history. Nemeth et al (1974) confirmed that consistency is necerssary for a minority to influence the majority, but it is not always suffecient.

Moscovici (1985) argued that conversion is mose likely to occur under certain conditions:

  • Consistency of the minority
  • Flexibility, must not appear dogmatic or rigid
  • Commitment
  • Relevance of their belief

He also suggested some behavioural styles that minorities should have if they want to exert an influence. These include consistency in order to portray certainty and convey on alternative view. They should act on principles rather than just talking about them. It also helps if they are similar in terms of age, class and gender to the people they are trying to persuade.   

The two main explanations of minority influence are conditions for conversion and the social impact theory.

Majority and Minority Influence

Social Impact Theory (Latane and Wolf, 1981) offers a complex explanation and can account for both influences. According to the theory, an individuals behaviour in any situation can be predicted in terms of three factors;

  • strength - number of people present or consistensy of the message
  • Status and knowledge - equal influence from lots of amatuers or one expert
  • Immediacy - the closer you are physically to influecer, the more


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