Minority Influence

  • Created by: KarenL78
  • Created on: 07-07-17 11:54

Minority Influence - Overview & Examples

  • Minority influence is a type of social influence that motivates individuals to reject established majority group norms.

- Darwin's theory of evolution changed the majority view that humans were created by God.

- Solodarity - polish trade union group, grew to 10m and overthrew govt. in 1989.

- Fathers 4 Justice - father's rights.

- Suffragettes and women's right to vote.

- Nelson Mandela changing world views on racial inequality.

- Stonewall and gay rights.

- Greenpeace and environmental issues.

- Dying With Dignity - euthanasia.

  • Minorities DO have influence and can manipulate change.
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How Minority Influence Works

  • Achieved through process of CONVERSION where majorities are gradually on over to the minority viewpoint.
  • CONVERSION involves the new belief/behaviour being accepted both publicly and privately and can be seen as a type of INTERNALISATION as it involves a change in an individuals belief system and is thus regarded as a strong form of CONFORMITY.
  • CONVERSION through minority influence generally occurs through ISI, where a minority provide new information and ideas to the majority.
  • Minority influence takes longer to achieve than majority influence (which is based on compliance and where conformity is instantaneous and unthinking), because time is needed for individuals to re-examine their beliefs and behaviour in light of the new information and beliefs being advocated.
  • Gradual process by which minority opinions become majority ones is called SOCIAL CRYPTOAMNESIA - or the snowball effect.  Converts to the minority viewpoint are few at first, but as more and more people change their attitude, the pace picks up and the minority gains status, power and acceptability.


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Hovland's 4 Major Factors Influencing Effectivene

In the 1950's Hovland identified 4 major factors influencing the effectiveness of the minority:

1. Consistency 

2. Flexibility

3. Relevance

4. Commitment

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Consistency - Influence on Effectiveness of Minori


  • Minority influence will be persuasive if the minority is consisten with its opinion/behaviour; shows confidence in it's beliefs and appears unbiased.
  • Consistency seems to be the most important feature as it shows the minority are committed, particularly if they had to resist social pressures and abuses against their viewpoint, and creates enough doubts about established norms to get individuals to re-examine their own beliefs and behaviours.
  • If the minority are NOT consistent, it serves to reinforce the beliefs and behaviours of the majority, the exact opposite of it's intentions.
  • Two types of consistency:

1. Diachronic - the message stays the same over time.

2. Synchronic - consistency between members.

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Flexibility - Influence on Effectiveness of Minori


  • Consistent minorities who are inflexibile, rigid and uncompromising in their beliefs and behaviour will not be persuasive.
  • If they are seen to be flexible, by demonstrating an ability to be moderate, co-operative and reasonable, then they will be persuasive.
  • Successful minority influence therefore seems to require the minority to compromise and be slightly inconsistent in its position!!
  • Listenting to others makes them feel respected and their opinions valued.
  • Not always necessary to change your message but it is necessary to let others know you have taken on board their considerations in making your decision.
  • When the minority listen, it menas the majority has to reply and to engage with the arguments being put forward.  The more debate and discussion, the more oppoortunities to influence the majority.
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Flexibility - Influence on Effectiveness of Minori

  • Nemeth (1986) created groups of 3 participants and 1 confederate who had to decide how much compensation to payto the victim of a ski-lift accident.  When the confederate - acting as the consistent minority - argued for a low amount and refused to change their position, they had NO effect on the majority.  BUT...when they compromised a little and moved to offering a slightly higher amount, the majority changed their opinion to a lower amount.  Shows how minorities need to be flexible to be persuasive, whilst also questions CONSISTENCY.
  • Mugny & Papastamou (1982) got participants to respond to q's about responsibility for pollution.  Also exposed to a minority's extreme views on how to control pollution.  When the minority refused to budge from their opinion they were NOT persuasive. BUT...when they appeared flexible, but compromising, they were seen as less extreme, more co-operative and reasonable and were MORE persuasive in changing majority opinions.
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Relevance & Commitment - Influences on Effectivene


  • Minority's views must be perceived as being in line with social trends or the majority group's behaviours.
  • Argument must reflect the opinions and behaviours of those whose minds you are trying to change.


  • Minority must be seen as being truly committed to their views, leading the majority to think about their standpoint and convert to the minority view.
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Other Factors Important To Achieving MI.

1. Style of Thinking.

2. Identification.

3. Status & Credibility.

4. Personality.

5. Fear Arousal.

6. Level of Education.

7. Group Discussions.

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Style of Thinking - Influence on Effectiveness of

  • A consistent, committed minority stand an increased chance of getting individuals to engage in SYSTEMATIC PROCESSING where the minority viewpoint is considered carefull and over time, rather than being instantly dismissed without any careful analysis through SUPERFICIAL PROCESSING.
  • Smith et al (1996) found that if a minority could get a majority to consider an issue in terms of the arguements for and against, the minofirty became MORE INFLUENTIAL, illustrating how style of thinking is important in determining the persuasiveness of a minority.
  • Further support for this is found by Nemeth (2005) who reported that when a minority can get a majority to discuss and debate an issue, the persuasive influence of the minority becomes greater.
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Identification - Influence on Effectiveness of MI.

  • When a majority identifies with a minority, then the minority will be more persuasive in getting the majority to convert to it's viewpoint.  
  • E.g. if a minority consisted solely of males it would be more persuasive in converting the beliefs and behaviours of other males, over females.
  • Maas et al (1982) found that a gay minority arguing for gay rights were LESS persuasive in changing majority heterosexual opinions than a straight minority arguing for gay rights. Suggests that  the straigh majority, identified with the straight minority, making them more persuasive, while they percieved the gay minority as different from themselves and as having a self-interest in promoting their own particular cause.
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Status & Credibility / Personality


  • Studies have shown that the source of the influence - the person / group who is trying to influence - and their status and credibility is an important factor.
  • If the source is percieved to be an expert, then the more likely they are to be influential.
  • If the viewpoint appears to be their own and they have the information in their head and can "ad lib" freely as opposed to reading off notes, then the minority source will be even more persuasive. If they hesitate over the information they are providing, they lose credibility. Hovland & Weiss (1951)


  • Individuals who are chamring, humourous and pleasant in teir manner, both in verbal behaviour and body language, are more influential Baron & Byrne (1991).
  • They draw attention to themselves, especially if they are a charismatic person.  
  • The memory of the person will have a longer lasting effect then the thousands of words they spoke at a conference.
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Fear Arousal / Level of Education / Group Discussi


  • Janis & Feshbach (1953) found evidence that one factor in persuasive communication is the degree of fear involved.
  • Principle often use in drink drive campaigns or drug campaigns.


  • The level of education of the recipients, those who are to be influenced, is a important factor.
  • Generally, better educated people are more likely to be influenced by two-sided argument Hovland et al. (1949).


  • Generally, informal situations such as group discussions are more influential than formal situations such as speeches or lectures.
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Social Impact Theory

  • Has been suggested that social impact theory can be used to explain all types of social influence.
  • Social influence depends upon:

1. the strength of the influence - such as the number of people

2. the status of the influence - e.g. whether those exerting pressure are experts

3. the immediacy of the influence - the closer you are to those exerting pressure, the more influence they have on your behaviour.

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