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Minority Influence. September 21, 2006. Social Influence Equated with Conformity. By the late 1960’s research on social influence was focused completely on conformity. Focus on conformity is evident in the course readings up to this point. Social Norms, Group Polarization, Majority Pressure.

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minority influence

Minority Influence

September 21, 2006

social influence equated with conformity
Social Influence Equated with Conformity
  • By the late 1960’s research on social influence was focused completely on conformity.
  • Focus on conformity is evident in the course readings up to this point.
    • Social Norms, Group Polarization, Majority Pressure.
origins of conformity
Origins of Conformity
  • Social Norms: When faced with uncertainty, people look to others to establish a collective frame of reference.
    • Norms are even more powerful when they become the focus of our attention.
    • When people feel that the group norms do not describe their personal behavior, they feel alienated and less committed to the group.
    • People will continue to follow a norm even when it is arbitrary.
drift toward similarity
Drift Toward Similarity
  • Group Polarization: Once the group has established agreement, this agreement becomes more extreme over time.
  • Group polarization is the end result of a social comparison process.
    • Because people want to be liked, they will try to exemplify the group’s values and beliefs.
      • Example: This group values bravery, so I will be the BRAVEST person in the group.
maintaining the status quo through majority pressure
Maintaining the Status Quo Through Majority Pressure
  • Conformity: People will often ignore the evidence of their own senses to go along with a majority view the know to be wrong.
    • (1) People actually convince themselves that they are seeing what the group is seeing.
    • (2) People believe they are wrong and the group is right, so they yield.
    • (3) People believe that they are right and the group is wrong but they yield to avoid a hassle.
myopia of majority influence
Myopia of Majority Influence
  • Moscovici faced with a field that was completely focused on conformity.
    • Influence flowed from the majority to the minority and not the other way.
    • Groups become more and more similar over time.
    • Peoples’ primary motivation is to be liked and accepted and their greatest fear is to be different and alienated.
from majority to minority influence
From Majority to Minority Influence
  • Conformity does not account for the full range of human behavior.
    • People sometimes resist the group to tell the truth as they see it (e.g. protests).
    • Groups change over time. New ideas always reflect a minority viewpoint, but the group may eventually come to accept them.
      • Influence must flow from the minority to the majority or else groups would never change.
    • Majority does not always rule: Some conflicts are never resolved.
toward a new set of questions
Toward A New Set of Questions

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Mark Twain

  • Can the minority influence the majority and if so, how?
  • When are minorities the most/least persuasive?
  • What are the consequences of minority influence?
reversing the asch experiment
Reversing the Asch Experiment
  • Six naïve subjects constituted the majority.
  • One confederate was the minority.
  • Subjects were asked to view a set of slides and state their color. All slides were actually blue but varied in intensity.
  • Minority consistently said that the blue slides were green.
results minority influence
Results: Minority Influence
  • Control condition not exposed to the minority only said green twice—less than 1% of the responses.
  • Among those exposed to minority view almost 10% of the total responses were green and 32% of the subjects reported seeing green at least once.
  • Evidence for minority influence.
key question how do minorities have influence
Key Question: HOW do minorities have influence
  • When do minorities have influence and how?
  • The answer lies in understanding their style of argumentation and how different styles are interpreted by the majority.
  • Consider the following cases.
the case of freud
The Case of Freud
  • Victorian Era: Books on etiquette were bestsellers. Women were revered for their virginity and simplicity. Sex was never discussed in public.
  • Freud: Proposed a theory of infantile sexuality, children can have hostile and erotic feelings, and a son can desire his mother.
  • Reaction: Freud’s work was censored, he was called a pervert, his followers were “paranoid psychopaths”
the case of galileo
The Case of Galileo
  • Catholic church: Held the conviction (based on their interpretation of the bible) that the earth was the center of the universe and that the sun rotated about the earth.
  • Galileo: Argued that the earth rotated around the sun.
  • Reaction: Brought before the inquisition and forced to recant under threat of torture.
how did freud and galileo exert influence
How did Freud and Galileo exert influence?
  • Conventional wisdom tells us that we must win friends to influence people.
  • Therefore, they should have first conformed to the group, demonstrated their competence and then slowly shifted their view over time.
  • A minority must earn “idiosyncracy credit” to have influence (Hollander, 1964).
evidence for the power of consistency
Evidence for the power of consistency
  • Freud responded,

“I think therefore that one has to be content to state one’s point of view and relate one’s experiences in as clear and decided a way as possible and not trouble too much about the reaction of one’s audiences.”

  • Galileo responded by publishing more evidence in support of his theories.
  • KEY: Majority made certain assumptions about them based on their behavior.
when do minorities have influence
When Do Minorities Have Influence?
  • Minorities have the most influence when they are consistent and maintain their viewpoint over time.
  • Consistency triggers an attribution of confidence.
  • Result: Maybe they know something I don’t? Gains legitimacy and the potential to have influence.
  • Bottom Line: One need NOT win friends to influence people. Does this theory fit with your personal experiences? Have you ever witnessed a minority view come to be accepted within a group?
caveat to consistency appearing dogmatic
Caveat to Consistency: Appearing Dogmatic
  • Exception when consistency is perceived to be dogmatic.
  • Mindless repetition, while consistent, does not lead to influence. People must be able to argue their position in a flexible way.
  • Flexible: Ability to alternate between more than one counter-argument while maintaining the consistency of one’s viewpoint.
  • Question: How can you differentiate between being consistent and being dogmatic? Is it always possible?
the dilemma of the double minority
The Dilemma of the Double Minority
  • Double Minority: When a person is a minority both in terms of their belief but also in terms of the social categories to which they belong.
  • Double minorities tend to be less persuasive: A gay person arguing for gay marriage is less persuasive than a straight person arguing for gay marriage.
  • Important role of assumed self interest.
are majority and minority influence really the same
Are Majority and Minority Influence Really the Same?
  • Social Impact Theory: Influence is a multiplicative function of 3 factors:

(1) Strength: Status, power, knowledge

(2) Immediacy: Proximity in space and time

(3) Number: Of group members

  • All things being equal, the majority will always have greater influence simply because of their larger numbers.
    • This position has been strongly disputed.
next week understanding and using minority influence
Next Week: Understanding and using minority influence
  • Two reasons that majority and minority influence are not the same process:
    • Majority influence results in compliance (going along in public, but not believing in private) while minority influence results in conversion (believing in private without acknowledging it in public).
    • Minority influence makes people think divergently (open minded), while majority influence makes people think convergently (narrow minded).