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Minority Influence in Social Psychology

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Introduction

Outline and evaluate research into minority influence. Minority influence occurs when a minority group is able to influence the majority. Much research has been carried out on this apparent reversal of the traditional view of the majority influencing the minority. According to Turner (1991), minority influence occurs when a majority "rejects the established norm of the majority of group members and induces the majority to move to the position of the minority." Serge Moscovici, one of the forerunner researchers on minority influence, argued that the American ideal of an all-powerful majority through conformity does not fit with historical reality. He argues that minorities have been seen to be extremely influential and powerful throughout history, for examples the suffragettes arguing for voting rights for women. Moscovici believed the success of minority influence is dependent on their behavioural style and went even further to suggest that it is their consistency in arguing their viewpoint which is the secret to their success - if they defend their position and advocate change, this may cause conflict, doubt and uncertainty amongst the social majority and this would eventually lead to the majority questioning their own position and possibly changing it. ...read more.

Middle

who claimed that there was more to the success of minority influence than just consistency. They argued consistency is a complex issue and if the minority shows signs of being too inflexible, rigid and unwilling to compromise then they are viewed as too extreme; it is then very unlikely for the views of the majority to be changed. To test this argument, Nemeth and Brilmayer (1987) set up mock juries to decide compensation in a trial. Each jury has one confederate amongst three participants. When the confederate rigidly argued for a small amount of compensation showing no signs of willingness to change his position, there was no effect on the majority. However when the confederate was willing to compromise, he lead the others to minimal compromise also. The findings from this research empirically augmented Moscovici's original position - while consistency in the minority is still very important, an ideal amount of flexibility will also prove far more effective in influencing a majority. In addition to this, Maass et al (1982) ...read more.

Conclusion

This has been reconciled by Perez et al (1995) by the idea of social cryptoamnesia - as people cannot identify with the minority, they remember the ideas put forward by the minority but not those who put them forward. The influence of the minority group is therefore delayed and indirect, causing change after the group first appeared. Much research has been carried out into minority influence and while psychologists have learned a lot from these experiments, some have made criticisms against them. Edward Sampson (1991) argues that the ecological validity of these experiments is questionable as they all take place in artificial settings, using groups that are not "real." He argued that the groups were made of strangers who probably held very different views and were never likely to meet again, showing a lack of legitimate consistency. He also argued that real minority groups would be more passionate about their cause and place more effort into causing change. He also argued that research ignored the power structures in society, the social hierarchy where some groups have more power and influence than others. Another criticism is that these studies are all ethnocentric and pertain only to western culture. ...read more.

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