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Minority Influence

Minority Influence

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Minority Influence

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  1. Minority Influence September 21, 2006

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Minority Influence?

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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”

  14. 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.

  15. 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).

  16. 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.

  17. 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?

  18. 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?

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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).