Compare and Contrast Minority and Majority Influence

Topics: Social psychology, Sociology, Social influence Pages: 5 (1919 words) Published: May 6, 2013
As social beings, with each one of us connected to a whole network of other humans and their associated beliefs, opinions and traits practically every conscious second of the day, it is inevitable that we will be subject to external influences. These influences come in all shapes and forms from a whole multitude of sources, occurring both consciously and unconsciously, instantaneously or over a prolonged period of time, with the potential effect of these influences ranging from the immaterial to the life-changing. While our susceptibility to influence from the connected world around us can be hard to measure given our constant exposure to several different influences, social psychologists have been able to study the world of influence within a group context with some success, led by the likes of Asch and Moscovici. The principal questions which have provided direction to these studies include why people conform in groups and whether some people more likely to conform than others. One will address these two questions in the text below, while also looking to explain what “minority influence” is, and how it differs to what is considered majority influence. To commence, one will look at the question of why people conform in groups. There appear to be two fundamental influences; informational influence, which involves people’s desire to be right (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004) and normative influence, which revolves around people’s desire to be liked, or at least not to appear foolish (B.Hodges & Geyer, 2006). Researchers demonstrated informational Influence by tweaking Asch’s famous experiment and making the three lines of different length a lot more similar to one another, making the correct identification of the matching line more difficult. With a more confusing situation, one would expect a participant to seek additional information about the lines, with increased social conformity the end result (Crutchfield, 1955). Testing the converse also provides supporting evidence for the hypothesis that by giving the participant less reason to listen to others (i.e. indicating that they are more competent or knowledgeable than the others) there is less conformity (Campbell, Tesser, & Fairy, 1986). This helps explain why in the real world, people typically seek the opinion of others when they encounter a situation they don’t understand as they need more information. To help demonstrate normative Influence and the desire not to look foolish, one needs only look at the original Asch studies when the unanimous majority was making an incorrect judgement as to which of a choice of three lines of different length matched a test line. Even though the participant saw things differently to everybody else, the fear of looking foolish led him to conform to what the others saw. Having noted the above, it is worth directing attention to Morris and Miller 1975, who identified that the presence of just one single ally is all people need to stick to their guns. In fact, Asch also identified a similar conclusion by altering his own experiment and making one of the seven confederates say the right answer. When this occurred, only 5% of the participants agreed with the group consensus. This would appear to tie-in nicely with the theory of normative influence as people are less likely to feel foolish if it appears someone else may share the same opinion. Having reviewed why people conform, one will now explore whether some people are more likely to conform than others. It would appear that there are some factors which make the occurrence of influence more likely. The most easily distinguishable factor which can have an effect is the culture from which the group is from. According to Gleitman et al, in collectivist cultures, there is a stronger likelihood for people to conform within a group setting. Studies have shown average conformity rates in collectivist cultures of between 25% and 58% whereas average conformity in individualist cultures...
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