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Social Influence

2) Minority Influence

It’s not just majority influence that people conform to; minority influence can also cause a change in people’s behaviour and beliefs. Minority influence is when a small number of people affect a larger number. This can clearly be seen throughout history, for example in the 1970s activists for caring for the environment were dismissed as “hippies”, but now, thanks to minority influence, it is now then norm to be concerned about global warming.

Research

Moscovici et al (1969)

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

PROCEDURE – He tested 32 groups of six women, 2 of which from each group were confederates. The group were shown 36 blue-coloured slides, which all varied slightly in their intensity. The participants were asked to verbally describe the colour of each slide, with the confederates answering first. The confederates consistently said the slides were green.

FINDINGS – The participants agreed with the minority that the slides were green 8% of the time. 32% conformed to the minority at least once. However, when the confederates answered inconsistently the conformed went down to 1.25%.

CONCLUSION – Minority influence can make the majority conform, however consistency is very important.

Factors affecting Minority Influence

Ask Moscovici’s study shows, consistency is a very important factor of successful minority influence; however there are other factors as well:

– Size of minority – As the size of the minority increases, so does their influence

– Confidence in beliefs – Minorities who show belief in their point of view have a greater influence

– Sharing common ground with majority – The more common ground a minority has with a majority the greater their influence; this could be because the majority will find it easier to relate to the minorities point of view

– Acting from principle – If a minority is seen to be acting from morals and principles their influence increases, this could be because it seems more justified and morally correct if they have sound beliefs.

– Sacrifice – A minority has greater influence if they are seen to make personal sacrifices. This could be because it persuades others that the minority point of view must be correct if they are willing to go to such extreme lengths to show it.

Explanations of conformity to minority influence

The presence of minority influence amongst a majority creates conflict in both social situations, and the minds of the majority. This is because often the minority’s beliefs are radically different to the majorities, so there these new ideas can be though provoking for the majority, they might start to question their own opinion, and sometime this is all that is needed to change someone’s opinion. This is why it is important for the majority to remain consistent and draw attention to themselves, because, if the majority can avoid the minority influence, then they will.

As the minority influence increases and more of the population conform to the minority belief, it can become the majority belief. This often picks up pace, converting more and more people to the minority belief in a shorter and shorter space of time; this is known as the Snowball effect.

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About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology

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