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Outline and Evaluate Psychological Research into Minority Social Influence

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Introduction

Outline and Evaluate Psychological Research into Minority Social Influence Minority social influence is where a smaller group of people is trying to persuade a larger group of people into changing their attitudes, behaviours or beliefs. Through research it has possible to identify the qualities required of the minority in order to exert their influence over the majority. Moscovici (1985) claimed that the minority must be consistent and never appear dogmatic; Hogg and Vaughan (1998) added to this that the minority must also appear to be principled, alike to the majority in someway (e.g. gender or social class), have views consistent with current social trends, and be seen to have made sacrifices to maintain their influential position, if they are to succeed in their persuasion. There have been various studies which have allowed these generalized conclusions of the effectiveness of minorities to be made. Each of these studies has both its strengths and weaknesses. One of the first major studies into minority influence was carried out by Moscovici et al (1969). The aim of the experiment was to see whether a consistent minority of participants would influence a larger group of people to give an incorrect answer in a colour perception task. ...read more.

Middle

It has been found that women are more greatly affected by normative social influence than men are, meaning that women are more likely to conform. Therefore it can be expected that males and females will react differently to minority social influence. These findings relate to the female reaction in the situation can therefore only be generalized to this female population. Similar differences may not only be found across genders but perhaps across cultures, social classes and age groups. Each different group may be more or less inclined to conform; therefore these results are not applicable to the world in general. In order to make this generalization, first several different studies would have to be carried out across different sample groups in order to determine whether or not there were significant differences present between the conformity levels. Other studies have been carried out using a similar procedure and act to further the findings of Moscovici's original research and correct some of the conclusions initially put forward. Moscovici and Nemeth (1974) were interested in the effects of seating position of the minority participants. In the study there were five participants (one confederate, four in the majority). ...read more.

Conclusion

This shows that generalisations cannot be made from the 1969 study as the conformity only occurs up to a certain number of people. Therefore the effects of minority influence may only be said to work when the minority to majority ratio is at a maximum of 2:4. These findings are not particularly useful as they cannot demonstrate applications in everyday life; such as when a jury majority of 11 is influenced by a minority of 1. This may be due to the method used in Moscovici's study; perhaps a more realistic experiment method would show different results that could fully explain how human behaviour works in everyday life. Moscovici's (1969) study into minority social influence has acted as an important base for research. As a laboratory experiment it has limited ecological validity and mundane realism; however it has the positive attribute of fewer possible confounding variables. The study has been both supported and opposed by later research, however it appears that the idea of consistency suggested by Moscovici is not wrong but was not developed enough to fully explain minority social influence. The experiment allowed for further developments of explanational theories; providing a suitable method to be used in studies, and initial ideas that were important for improvements on our psychological understanding of minority social influence. ?? ?? ?? ?? 28/11/2008 1 ...read more.

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