Group Psychology: Minority vs. Majority Influence

Group Psychology: Minority vs. Majority Influence
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  • 0:05 Minority vs. Majority…
  • 1:05 The Majority Is Not…
  • 1:58 Normative and…
  • 2:50 How Do You Change a Majority?
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ron Fritz
How would you change a belief or opinion of the majority to match your own? Is it even possible? Serge Moscovici believed it is and further stated that all progress is a result of the minority influence over the majority.

Minority vs. Majority Influence

Moscovici, a social psychologist, emphasized the role of minority influence.
Serge Moscovici

If nothing ever changed, if the majority always ruled, then we would all still be living in caves and eating raw dinoburgers. In caveman days, change was avoided whenever possible, because conforming to the majority and the way things were done in the past had always kept the clan alive and safe.

However, somewhere along the way, someone got tired of always being cold and eating uncooked food and decided to discover fire. Because this individual diverged from the majority and dared to try something different, we now have weekend barbecues.

How did he do it? How was our caveman able to go against the clan majority? The answer is he was able to have a different opinion because it was a better idea, and it benefited everyone.

'The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.' - George Bernard Shaw

The Majority is Not Always Right

Although many social conformity studies emphasize the degree that people are influenced by majority opinion, such as Asch's line experiment, a social psychologist named Serge Moscovici argued that not enough credit is given to the influence a minority can have on the majority.

Throughout history, minorities have influenced and changed majority opinion. A volcano's eruption starts with a small rumble deep within the mountain; minority influence on a majority happens much the same way. Change happens slowly, often starting with one person convincing a few peers that he or she has a better idea. The larger the group, the more difficult it is to effect change; therefore, the longer you can expect it will take.

The civil rights movement illustrates the influence minority groups can wield.
Minority Changes Civil Rights

'If two people have the same opinion, one person is unnecessary.' - Stephen Covey

Normative and Informational Influence

Individuals seek to join majority groups because of both normative and informational influences. Normative group influence means that people join a group because they desire to belong to the group, or because they wish to be accepted by the group. Informational influence means that people join a group because they believe the group is right, and they long to be right also. Individuals in a majority group are only influenced by a minority group because of informational influence.

Majority group members rarely have any desire to belong or be accepted by the minority; therefore, normative influence usually has no value. However, if majority group members believe the minority is correct about something, the majority group members will be influenced to think the same way, because they also wish to be correct.

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