So far in all
of the studies considered such as Asch etc., a majority have had
influence over a minority, such as six stooges influencing one
participant. However, in real life if this were always the
case, and the minority always went along with the majority,
there would be no change in Society. For change in ideas,
religions, politics etc. there are times when a minority of
people with different views have to exert their influence on the
rest of us. This so called minority influence tends to be a
slow process, but it does bring about a change both in public
and privately held opinions. This is relatively straight
forward if the minority has a good power base, but very often
they start from a position of weakness so how do they manage to
suffragette movement changing attitudes towards women’s rights,
Galileo’s ideas on planetary movements, the Nazi’s reign in
(1969): ‘calling a blue slide green’
emphasise enough how important it is to remember this study,
‘cos ‘minority influence’ is a likely question and this is the
only study to use!
of six female participants are told they’re taking part in a
study on perception.
are presented with 36 blue slides differing in intensity of
shade and are asked
to say what
colour the slides are. However two of the participants are
stooges and these answer in one of two ways:
always say the slides are green
the slides are green on two thirds of occasions.
stooges say ‘green’ every time: 8% of the majority agree
stooges are less consistent this falls to 1.25%
aren’t very high, however, 32% of participants conformed with
the minority on at least one occasion. Remember also that the
slides are quite clearly blue and NOT green.
Moscovici concluded that consistency is vital for
minority influence to occur. If the minority consistently give
the same answer they are more likely to sway a majority.
participants were allowed to write down their answers (private
response) as opposed to the usual verbal (public response) you
may be surprised to find that conforming to a minority actually
increased… bet you thought it would go the other way! To
reiterate… when participants were shown a slide that is clearly
blue, but a few stooges claim its green, then real participants
are more likely to secretly agree with them than do so openly!
concluded that the reason more people (more than the 8%) didn’t
conform in the original study, was because they didn’t want to
be seen going along with a minority view. Secretly it seems
they were being convinced!
Nemeth et al
agree that consistency is important but is not always enough in
itself. They carried out a variation on the procedure but
allowed the participants to answer with a combination of
colours. This time there were three conditions:
stooges randomly answer ‘green’ on half of the trials and
‘blue-green’ on the other half.
stooges answer ‘green’ to the brighter slides and
‘green-blue’ to the darker slides
stooges answer ‘green’ on every trial.
Moscovici et al to be correct, we would expect the third
condition, in which the stooges are consistent to have the
greatest influence on the minority. However this was not the
were most influenced by condition 2 since it is seen as
flexible. 21% of participants were influenced by the minority
in this condition.
In the other
two conditions few participants were influenced. In the first
there is lack of consistency, (supporting Moscovici’s findings),
and in the third there is a total lack of flexibility and no
attempt for the stooges to use the more complex descriptions
concluded that minorities are more likely to be influential if
they are consistent but not to the point of being dogmatic.
Hogg & Vaughan
(1995) claim that the following are important for minorities to
if the minority seem to be acting on principle rather than
out of self interest
if the minority have had to make sacrifices to maintain
characteristics with the majority:
if the minority are similar in age, race, social class etc.
if the views of the minority are in keeping with social
trends. For example current trends in Western Society are
tolerance and liberalisation. Therefore calls by a minority
for equal rights for a minority group are more likely to
meet with acceptance.
Evaluation of Moscovici experiment:
uses stooges so deception is employed. Whenever there is
deception consent cannot be informed.
ecological validity since it is a very trivial exercise, i.e. a
silly disagreement over a slide that is very obviously blue.
This is not the sort of thing we normally disagree over, so does
it tell us anything about minority influence in real life when
very weighty matters of principle tend to be involved
minorities exert their influence
to Moscovici minorities with opposing views to ours create
social conflict resulting in discomfort amongst the majority.
According to Moscovici the minority must:
Challenge the established norm by creating doubt in the
minds of the majority
itself highly visible (e.g. public campaigns, marches etc).
that there is an alternative viewpoint
Demonstrate certainty and confidence in their view
compromise or even a hint of it
that the only solution to the conflict is for others to move
towards their position.
the rise of the Nazi party in Germany in relation to the above!
Atkinson et al
(1990) report the following study:
asked to read out summaries of a discussion on gay rights
supposedly written by other students like themselves.
Four of the
summaries focused on one viewpoint
One of the
summaries focused on the other viewpoint.
When asked to
share their views publicly all of the students tended to favour
the majority view. However, when asked to write down their
views privately they tended to favour the minority view.
concluded that the majority creates conformity by the granting
or withholding of social approval (compliance) but don’t
necessarily create a change of opinion. On the other hand the
minority have the power to create internalisation (a real shift
in privately held views).
if we encounter a viewpoint different to our own conflict is
created (similar to cognitive dissonance). Generally we don’t
like conflict so we are motivated to take steps to reduce it.
Okay so far, but this next assumption seems dodgy to me (not to
to Moscovici, if a minority of people hold a different view to
our own we examine their argument very closely to find out why
their view differs to the majority. However, if a majority of
people disagree with our viewpoint we simply fall into line and
alter our own view to fit. The fact that we examine the
minority’s argument more closely means we concentrate more on
the content of their message and as a result are more
likely to be swayed by it on a private level (we are more likely
to internalise their viewpoint).
(1987) disagrees. We all like to think that others share
similar thoughts and viewpoints to ourselves (so called
false-consensus theory). As a result when a majority disagrees
with us we spend longer examining their arguments and weighing
up the evidence. When faced with a minority that disagrees
we’re generally not that bothered… after all we’re still in the