Social Psychology – Minority Influence « Organisation Development (2023)

Answers the Question

Can a numerical minority influence the attitudes of the majority?

How it Began

In many of the conformity studies described so far it was a minority group who were conforming to the majority. Moscovici (1976, 1980) argued along different lines. He claimed that Asch (1951) and others had put too much emphasis on the notion that the majority in a group has a large influence on the minority. In his opinion, it is also possible for a minority to influence the majority. In fact Asch agreed with Moscovici. He too felt that minority influence did occur, and that it was potentially a more valuable issue to study – to focus on why some people might follow minority opinion and resist group pressure.

Moscovici argues that majority influence tends to be based on public compliance. It is likely to be a case of normative social influence. In this respect, power of numbers is important – the majority have the power to reward and punish with approval and disapproval. And because of this there is pressure on minorities to conform.

Since majorities are often unconcerned about what minorities think about them, minority influence is rarely based on normative social influence. Instead, it is usually based on informational social influence – providing the majority with new ideas, new information which leads them to re-examine their views. In this respect, minority influence involves private acceptance (i.e. internalization)- converting the majority by convincing them that the minority’s views are right.

Key Terminology

Minority influence – a form of social influence that is attributed to exposure to a consistent minority position in a group.

Behavioural Style –a correlated set of individual behavioural and physiological characteristics that is consistent over time and across situations.

Style of Thinking –the way individuals think, perceive and remember information

(Video) Group Dynamics: How do majorities and minorities influence group behavior?

Flexibility –contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behaviour in the service of chosen values

Identification –a psychological process whereby the subject assimilates an aspect, property, or attribute of the other and is transformed, wholly or partially, after the model the other provides

In Brief

Minority influence is generally felt only after a period of time, and tends to produce private acceptance of the views expressed by the minority.

An important real-life example of a minority influencing a majority was the suffragette movement in the early years of the 20th century. A relatively small group of suffragettes argued strongly for the initially unpopular view that women should be allowed to vote. The hard work of the suffragettes, combined with the justice of their case, finally led the majority to accept their point of view.

Moscovic made a distinction between compliance and conversion. Compliance is common in conformity studies (e.g. Asch) whereby the participants publicly conform to the group norms but privately reject them. Conversion involves how a minority can influence the majority. It involves convincing the majority that the minority views are correct. This can be achieved a number of different ways (e.g. consistency, flexibility). Conversion is different to compliance as it usually involves both public and private acceptance of a new view or behavior (i.e. internalization).

Four main factors have been identified as important for a minority to have an influence over a majority. These are behavioural style, style of thinking, flexibility, and identification.

Behavioural Style

This comprises 4 components:

(Video) Majority and Minority Influence

  1. Consistency: The minority must be consistent in their opinion
  2. Confidence in the correctness of ideas and views they are presenting
  3. Appearing to be unbiased
  4. Resisting social pressure and abuse

Moscovici (1969) stated that the most important aspect of behaviuoral style is the consistency with which people hold their position. Being consistent and unchanging in a view is more likely to influence the majority than if a minority is inconsistent and chops and changes their mind.

Moscovici (1969) investigated behavioural styles (consistent / inconsistent) on minority influence in his blue-green studies. He showed that a consistent minority was more successful than an inconsistent minority in changing the views of the majority.

Consistency may be important because:

  • Confronted with a consistent opposition, members of the majority will sit up, take notice, and rethink their position.
  • Consistency gives the impression that the minority are convinced they are right and are committed to their viewpoint.
  • Also, when the majority is confronted with someone with self-confidence and dedication to take a popular stand and refuses to back own, they may assume that he or she has a point.
  • A consistent minority disrupts established norms and creates uncertainty, doubt and conflict. This can lead to the majority taking the minority view seriously. The majority will therefore be more likely to question their own views.

In order to change the majorities view the minority has to propose a clear position and has to defend and advocate its position consistently.

Style of Thinking

  • Identify three or four minority groups (e.g. asylum seekers, British National Party etc.)
  • How do you think and respond to each of these minority groups and the views they put forward?
  • Do you dismiss their views outright or think about what they have to say and discuss their views with other people?

If you dismiss the views of other people without giving them much thought, you would have engaged in superficial thought / processing. By contrast, if you had thought deeply about the views being put forward, you would have engaged in systematic thinking / processing (Petty et al., 1994). Research has shown that if a minority can get the majority to think about an issue and think about arguments for and against, then the minority stands a good chance of influencing the majority (Smith et al., 1996).

If the minority can get the majority to discuss and debate the arguments that the minority are putting forward, influence is likely to be stronger (Nemeth, 1995).

Flexibility and Compromise

(Video) Social Psychology Sherif key study

A number of researchers have questioned whether consistency alone is sufficient for a minority to influence a majority. They argue that the key is how the majority interprets consistency. If the consistent minority are seen as inflexible, rigid, uncompromising and dogmatic, they will be unlikely to change the views of the majority. However, if they appear flexible and compromising, they are likely to be seen as less extreme, as more moderate, cooperative and reasonable. As a result, they will have a better chance of changing majority views (Mugny & Papastamou, 1980).

Some researchers have gone further and suggested that it is not just the appearance of flexibility and compromise which is important but actual flexibility and compromise.

This possibility was investigated by Nemeth (1986). The experiment was based on a mock jury in which groups of three participants and one confederate had to decide on the amount of compensation to be given to the victim of a ski-lift accident. When the consistent minority (the confederate) argued for a very low amount and refused to change his position, he had no effect on the majority. However, when he compromised and moved some way towards the majority position, the majority also compromised and changed their view.

This experiment questions the importance of consistency. The minority position changed, it was not consistent, and it was this change that apparently resulted in minority influence.


People tend to identity with people they see similar to themselves. For example, men tend to identify with men, Asians with Asians, teenagers with teenagers etc. Research indicates that if the majority identifies with the minority, then they are more likely to take the views of the minority seriously and change their own views in line with those of the minority.

For example, one study showed that a gay minority arguing for gay rights had less influence on a straight majority than a straight minority arguing for gay rights (Maass et al., 1982). The non-gay majority identified with the non-gay minority. They tended to see the gay minority as different from themselves, as self-interested and concerned with promoting their own particular cause.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Social influence is key to managerial effectIveness and an integral part of working in teams and organizations. Members of organizations rely on one another to validate their views of the world, they seek and maintain norms and values about what they deem appropriate or not, and they influence oneanother to serve theIr personal or group interests.

(Video) Attribution Theory (Examples and What it is)

Workday Course also allows organizations to define roles and responsibilities, create budgets, and analyze trends, which can be used to help inform strategic decisions. By automating many of the HR and payroll processes, the software can help businesses save time and money while increasing efficiency and accuracy.

As an OD practitioner very often you begin in a position of minority dissent which means you will be publicly advocating and,pursing beliefs, attitudes, Ideas, procedures, and policies that go against organizational norms or the “spirit of the times” and challenge the position or perspective assumed by the majority.

Levine and Kaarbo argued that in political decision-making groups four types of minorities may be distinguished.

  1. Progressive minorities advance a new perspective and seek to convince the majority of its value.
  2. Conservative minorities attempt to block themajorities’ tendency to adopt a new, progressive perspective.
  3. Modernist minorities try to block the majorities’ tendency to return to previously held attitudes and policies,
  4. Reactionary minorities try to persuade the majorityto return to previously help opinions and perspectives.

Each of these four minority groups can be found in organizational life, and can either help, or hinder an OD intervention, and as an OD practitioner a lot of of your time will be spent as a Progressive or Modernist Minority, whilst trying to overcome the objections of the Conservative and Reactionary minorities who will try and sabotage your efforts.

If the norms of groups with which you are working are no longer effective, start a minority group. If possible, ensure the progressive or modernist minority group controls a critical resource or other form of effective influence which can be used to prevent rejection or punishment. Minority influence is more likely to occur if the point of view of the minority is consistent, flexible, and appealing to the majority. Having a consistent and unwavering opinion will increase the appeal to the majority, leading to a higher chance of adaption to the minority view. However, any wavering opinions from the minority group could lead the majority to dismiss the minority’s claims and opinions. An effective approach is to accumulate ‘brownie points’ by first supporting the majority, and then branching out. With applied skill, you can take a number of others with you.

A study by Elizabeth Mannix and Margaret Neale (2005) shows that having the support from the majority leader could be the critical factor is getting the minority opinion to be heard and be accepted. The support of the leader gives the majority more confidence in the merit of the minority opinion, leading to an overall respect for the minority. The strength of the “key people” (Van Avermaet, 1996) comes from the reputation built from their consistency of behaviours and ideas. Involving key people will benefit the minority view because people are more open to hear from others who they trust and respect. In minority influence, a few influential leaders can influence the opposing majority to the minority’s way of thinking. In the end, having a more supportive and active minority group could lead to innovative and better decision making

You can also remain in the main group and quietly support minority groups who can be used to do things you could not otherwise perform.Where you are in the main group and have an influential minority, seek ways of either accommodating or circumventing conservative and reactionary minorities. You can also seek to divide and conquer, sowing seeds of discontent within the minority group.

Source –

(Video) GCSE Psychology (OCR) Social Influence - The Tottenham Riots (2011) NatCen


What is the influence of minority in a group social psychology? ›

Social influence can occur when a minority (small group) changes the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of a majority; this is known as minority influence. Psychologists have identified different factors that can enhance the effectiveness of a minority, including: consistency, commitment and flexibility.

What is an example of minority influence in psychology? ›

Minority Influence Definition

In many situations in which group members disagree, opposing views are not equally represented in the group. For example, 4 jurors in a 12-person jury may believe the defendant to be not guilty, whereas the remaining 8 believe the defendant to be guilty.

What are examples of minority influence leading to social change? ›

There are many examples in history of minority influence leading to social change (e.g. the Suffragettes, civil rights movements in the USA, Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid in South Africa, and many more), and even a lone dissenter can be a catalyst for social change (Rosa Parkes for example).

What is majority influence in social psychology? ›

Majority influence occurs when the beliefs held by the larger number of individuals in the current social group prevail. In contrast, minority influence occurs when the beliefs held by the smaller number of individuals in the current social group prevail.

What are three factors that are important in a minority influence a majority? ›

Four main factors have been identified as important for a minority to have an influence over a majority. These are behavioral style, style of thinking, flexibility, and identification.

How does minority influence benefit a team? ›

Minority influence can also help people think divergently (become more open-minded and accepting of different ideas), rather than convergently (being more narrow-minded and moving toward one idea). Therefore, areas such as new product development and process innovation may benefit from minority influence.

What are 2 factors of minority influence? ›

The two types of minority influence are conversion and compliance. Conversion involves the majority genuinely accepting the minority's viewpoint, while compliance involves the majority publicly conforming to the minority's viewpoint without necessarily changing their private beliefs.

What is a minority group psychology? ›

a population subgroup with social, religious, ethnic, racial, or other characteristics that differ from those of the majority of the population. The term is sometimes extended to cover any group that is the subject of oppression and discrimination, whether or not it literally comprises a minority of the population.

What is an example of majority influence in psychology? ›

A classic example in psychology are the studies by Solomon Asch in the 1950s. In his experiments participants were put in a room with other people that they were led to believe were other participants but were in fact confederates, which are experimenters pretending to be participants.

What are 5 example of social influence? ›

Social influence encompasses such strategies as indebtedness or reciprocity, commitment, social proof, liking and attractiveness, authority, and scarcity.

What is an example of minorities in the social structure? ›

Some elderly and disabled people, homeless families, social security claimants, one-parent families and even large families, as well as people living in different types of hospitals and other institutions, display these traits.

What are some real world examples of minority rights? ›

Such minority rights may take the form of language rights, land claims, religious exemptions, guaranteed representation in legislative or advisory bodies, and various forms of territorial or cultural autonomy.

What are the three major categories of social influence? ›

3 THREE TYPES OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE. There are three types of influence that a social presence can have on a consumer: utilitarian, value-expressive, and informational (Burnkrant & Cousineau, 1975; Deutsch & Gerard, 1955; Park & Lessig, 1977).

What are the four types of influence in psychology? ›

Four areas of social influence are conformity, compliance and obedience, and minority influence.

What are the three areas of social influence in psychology? ›

Three areas of social influence are conformity, compliance and obedience.

What are dominant minority situations? ›

A dominant minority, also called elite dominance, is a minority group that has overwhelming political, economic, or cultural dominance in a country, despite representing a small fraction of the overall population (a demographic minority). Dominant minorities are also known as alien elites if they are recent immigrants.

Does the majority always rule minority influence? ›

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.

What are 4 minority rights? ›

Persons belonging to minorities have the right to participate effectively in cultural, religious, social, economic and public life.

How do you support minority groups in the workplace? ›

Ways to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
  1. Be aware of unconscious bias.
  2. Communicate the importance of managing bias.
  3. Promote pay equity.
  4. Develop a strategic training program.
  5. Acknowledge holidays of all cultures.
  6. Make it easy for your people to participate in employee resource groups.
  7. Mix up your teams.
Jun 21, 2022

What is the snowball effect of minority influence? ›

As the minority influence increases and more of the population conform to the minority belief, it can become the majority belief. This often picks up pace, converting more and more people to the minority belief in a shorter and shorter space of time; this is known as the Snowball effect.

What is an important characteristic of a minority group? ›

According to Charles Wagley and Marvin Harris (1958), a minority group is distinguished by five characteristics: (1) unequal treatment and less power over their lives, (2) distinguishing physical or cultural traits like skin color or language, (3) involuntary membership in the group, (4) awareness of subordination, and ...

What is the key to minority influence? ›

The key to minority influence being successful is not just consistency, but how the majority interprets consistency. If the consistent minority are seen as too inflexible, rigid, and unwilling to change, they are unlikely to influence the majority.

What are the 6 characteristics of minority groups? ›

Minority group membership is typically based on differences in observable characteristics or practices, such as: ethnicity (ethnic minority), race (racial minority), religion (religious minority), sexual orientation (sexual minority), or disability.

How do you resist conformity in psychology? ›

Act or speak differently than the people around you. Choose not to eat dessert or drink when everyone else is. Make different choices than others. When you do those things, slow down enough to feel its impact on you.

What is one strength of research into minority influence? ›

Evaluation: This is a strength because the research demonstrates that the minority can be a powerful influence on the attitudes and behaviours of others, but more specifically that consistency is the key to successful minority influence.

What issues are important to social psychologists? ›

Social psychologists study interpersonal and group dynamics and social challenges, such as prejudice, implicit bias, bullying, criminal activity and substance abuse. They research social interactions and the factors that influence them, such as group behavior, attitudes, public perceptions and leadership.

What are the 7 minority groups? ›

There are seven key minority groupings: Latinos (including Puerto Ricans), African Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Arab and other Middle Eastern Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawai'ians, and Inuit and Alaska Natives. In most cases, these groupings include several distinct subgroups.

What are the two types of influence in psychology? ›

Obedience and conformity are two kinds of social influences when people change attitude or behavior under the influence of the views of others.

What factors affect conformity to majority influence? ›

Group size: People are more likely to conform in situations that involve between three and five other people. Situation: People are more likely to conform in ambiguous situations where they are unclear about how they should respond. Cultural differences: People from collectivist cultures are more likely to conform.

What are the two types of majority influence? ›

Majority Influence

(Zimbardo et Leippe 1991) There are two key types normative (compliance) and informational (internalization).

What are examples of social influence in workplace? ›

For example, someone may decide not to follow a safe operating procedure by taking a shortcut while performing a task. If others in the crew observe this behavior, they immediately experience social influence. What happens the next time they are performing this same task?

What is a real life example of social influence? ›

For example-When a person moves from village to city, he may change his dressing style to conform with the urban dressing sense. “What other people are doing in peer groups is a powerful influence.” Social Influence refers to how one can be influenced or affected by others.

What are the problems that minority groups encounter in the society? ›

Ethnic minority families are more likely to experience discrimination and prejudice. Prejudice and stereotyping can cause frustrations that can contribute to violent or aggressive behavior. Reporting violence or criminal behavior can be unacceptable in some communities, which leaves the problem unaddressed.

What is an example of a minority majority? ›

In the developing world, the South American nation of Brazil has been described as a majority-minority country. This is with regards to white Brazilians being the historically largest group, and while remaining culturally dominant, have since become a national minority.

What is the sociological meaning of minority group? ›

Concept of a minority: mandate definition

An ethnic, religious or linguistic minority is any group of persons which constitutes less than half of the population in the entire territory of a State whose members share common characteristics of culture, religion or language, or a combination of any of these.

What is the name of an organization that protects minority rights? ›


Since its founding in 1920, ACLU has dedicated itself to the protection and expansion of the civil rights and liberties of all minority groups in America-racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual. This is accomplished through litigation, legislation, and public education.

Why are minority rights important? ›

Minority rights are about ensuring respect for distinctive identities while ensuring that any differential treatment towards groups or persons belonging to such groups does not mask discriminatory practices and policies.

What is minority rights principle? ›

The concept of majority rule is that a majority should make political decisions for the whole group. However, the idea of rights of the minority is that minorities have rights that cannot be taken away by elected majorities.

What is influence of minority in group? ›

Minority influence is a type of social influence which results in a change of views amongst the majority of members within a group. It involves an individual or minority of a population persuading other members to accept their argument, even if this contradicts the more popular view held by the majority.

What does minority group mean in psychology? ›

Sociological. Louis Wirth defined a minority group as "a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination".

What is minority influence psychology quizlet? ›

Define minority influence. A form of social influence in which a minority of people persuade others to adopt their beliefs, attitudes or behavoiuors. This leads to internalisation or conversion.

What are some examples of minority influence groups? ›

Unlike other forms of influence, minority influence is often thought of as a more innovative form of social change, because it usually involves a personal shift in private opinion. Examples of minority influence include the civil rights movement in the United States and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

What are the 5 characteristics of minority groups? ›

According to Charles Wagley and Marvin Harris (1958), a minority group is distinguished by five characteristics: (1) unequal treatment and less power over their lives, (2) distinguishing physical or cultural traits like skin color or language, (3) involuntary membership in the group, (4) awareness of subordination, and ...

What challenges do minority groups face? ›

Ethnic minority families are more likely to experience discrimination and prejudice. Prejudice and stereotyping can cause frustrations that can contribute to violent or aggressive behavior. Reporting violence or criminal behavior can be unacceptable in some communities, which leaves the problem unaddressed.

Why are minority groups important? ›

Promoting and protecting their identity prevents forced assimilation and the loss of cultures, religions and languages—the basis of the richness of the world and therefore part of its heritage. Non-assimilation requires diversity and plural identities to be not only tolerated but protected and respected.

What is minority influence AP psychology? ›

social pressure exerted on the majority of a group by a smaller faction of the group. Studies suggest that minorities who argue consistently prompt the group to reconsider even long-held or previously unquestioned assumptions and procedures.

Does minority influence lead to internalisation? ›

Minority influence is a form of social influence where a persuasive minority changes the attitudes and behaviours of the majority. Minority influence is also likely to lead to internalisation. This means that both public behaviour (behaviour shown to others) and private beliefs are changed by the process.

What is commitment in minority influence? ›

Commitment refers to the way that minority influence is more likely to occur if the minority shows dedication to their position. Commitment typically involves some form of personal sacrifice, which shows the majority that one is not just acting out of self-interest.

What is meant by the following concept of minority? ›

Concept of a minority: mandate definition

An ethnic, religious or linguistic minority is any group of persons which constitutes less than half of the population in the entire territory of a State whose members share common characteristics of culture, religion or language, or a combination of any of these.


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