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Minority Influence

Moscovici's Research

Moscovici (1969)

Aims:

To investigate the power of minorities.

Procedure:

Participants were asked to view a set of 36 blue colored slides that varied in intensity. Some of these blue colored slides were bluish green and therefore could be viewed as blue or green.

Participants were put into a group of six people, two of which were confederates of the experimenter. There were three conditions, one of which was a control condition and the other two were the experimental conditions. In one of the experimental conditions, the consistent condition, both of the confederates consistently said that the slides were green on 2/3rds of the trials. In the inconsistent condition, the two confederates sometimes said that the slides were blue, sometimes said that the slides were green.

Findings:

In the consistent condition, the naïve participants who made up the majority of the group gave the same answer as the confederates on 8.42% of the trials. In the inconsistent condition, 1.25% of the real naïve participants gave the same answer as the confederates. In the third condition, the control group, where there were no confederates, the participants gave the answer wrong on 0.25% of the trials.

Conclusion:

Moscovici concluded that that a minority group have to be consistent in their opinion in order to influence a majority.

Consistency
Commitment
Flexibility

Consistency:

Consistency can take one of two forms.

Synchronic consistency - refers to the extent to which the minority group say all say the same thing.

Diachronic consistency - is when the minority group say the same thing and have been saying the same thing over a period of time. This consistency in opinion makes other people start to think about their own views. Therefore, a consistent minority can actually be quite influential.

Commitment:

Another feature of minority influence is that they appear to be more committed than a majority group. Sometimes they engage in extreme activities in order to draw attention to the viewpoint and the cause. For example, we have seen very recently groups such as 'Just Stop Oil' turn to extreme tactics, putting themselves at risk in order to draw attention to the cause. This makes people think that maybe what they are saying is actually quite important. This is called the augmentation principal.

Flexibility:

Nemeth (1986) argued that consistency is not the only important factor in minority influence. Being consistent can sometimes make that viewpoint appear unpopular and can be interpreted in a negative way. This may put the majority off considering the minority view as they are seen as inflexible and dogmatic in their approach. Nemeth argued, that in order to get listened to the minority group sometimes have to show flexibility in their argument as then they appear to be more reasonable. There is a balance to be struck between consistency and flexibility, as if the minority group appear to be too flexible too early in the negotiations they are not seen as credible.

The snowball Effect:

Over time being consistent, committed but also flexible means that people get on board with the minorities view. Therefore, people may switch from the majority position to the minority position. This means they have become converted in the attitude. When this happens, it is likely to lead to internalisation. This is sometimes referred to as a snowball effect, as like a snowball, gradually the minority viewpoints becomes the majority viewpoint.

 

Evaluation:

1. One strength for consistency comes from the research study of Moscovici. Other research by Wood et al (1994) also gives strength to the concept of consistency. Wood carried out a meta analysis of a hundred studies and found that minority groups who were consistent were more influential.

2. A limitation of minority research, such as the Moscovici study, is that the tasks involved are very artificial. Judging the color of a slide is not something that we would do in every day life, and therefore the task lacks mundane realism. Furthermore, in the real world minorities tend to be made of groups who are very passionate about a particular cause and this is something which is very difficult to replicate in a lab experiment. Many of the studies of minority influence are of groups put together just for the sake of a study. Therefore, most of the research lacks external validity.

3. Another strength is that there is research support for the concept of internalisation. In one variation of Moscovici's blue-green slide study,  participants were asked to write their answers down instead of verbally giving them. In this situation, there was much more agreement with the minority, in fact,  far more than when they were asked to verbalize their answers. Therefore, it appears that the majority were convinced by the minorities arguments, but may have been reluctant to admit that in a public arena. Moscovici suggested that this is because they did not want to be considered to be radical or weird.

3. Another weakness of research into minority influence is that in these laboratory settings the difference between the minority opinion, and the majority opinion is very clear and obvious. This is because the research is done in controlled laboratory settings. This is a limitation as in the real world this distinction may not be as clear. Minorities in the real world tend to be a lot less powerful and majorities tend to have more status than the minority group. This means that minorities are likely to face lots of hostile opposition.

 

3. Another strength is that there appears to be research support in regards to the deeper processing of ideas. A study conducted by Martin (2003) involved giving a group of participants a a message supporting a particular viewpoint. The support for this viewpoint was then measured and then in one condition a group of participants heard a minority group agree with that initial viewpoint while another group heard from a majority group. Participants were then finally exposed to a conflicting view and their attitude were measured again. It was found that people were less likely to change their opinions if they listen to a minority group, then if it was shared with majority group.

Resources

Minority Influence Exam Questions

Minority Influence Mark Scheme

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