Stories on the edge of familiarity

I Never, Ever Thought I’d Do This… part 1

As you all know, I’ve been working like crazy on this term paper thing. The assignment was to write a section of a chapter for a hypothetical textbook on the subject of social influence (seeing as the class is called Social Influence, this assignment was extremely on topic and reasonable. I just hated the class, which is why writing this darn thing was such a big deal for me). 

Now, as much as I loathed a great deal of things about this paper, I actually ended up having a lot of fun writing it. Not only that, but I realized partway through that the subject matter I was covering would be interesting and informative to you guys (unless you’ve gone through a psych degree… in which case I’d say just to look at the pictures). And, lo and behold, I found myself submitting this assignment with excitement because I had decided about a thousand words prior that I’d post this paper on here.

My prof may hate it, and I might even get a failing mark on it. I don’t care. You may hate it (somehow, I doubt that), and I really don’t care about that, either. It has an xkcd comic in it. Nothing can ruin my mood.

Without further ado, my section of a chapter for a hypothetical textbook (part 1):

Minority Influence

Constructive Irritant. (2012). [Web Photo].

Minority influence refers to the social influence exerted by minorities -groups of people or individuals who have a way of doing things or a way of thinking that is different from most of the people around them. This topic also deals with the ways that majorities and minorities interact with each other and investigates any differences between the the two in their manner of influence.

Before the early seventies, persuasive power was considered to belong only to majorities (Prisin & Christensen, 2005). Studies such as the famous line studies done by Asch in 1951 (and infamous to psychology students who hear his work mentioned in every course they take) (I’m not exaggerating here, either) emphasized the power the group has over the actions of the individual, even to the point of the individual doubting what their eyes could see very clearly.

This focus on the majority, however, was criticized by another researcher, Moscovici, who ended up publishing several papers on the subject of minority influence. The first (Moscovici, Lage & Naffrechoux, 1969) involved a study whereby groups of people were asked to give the colour and rate the luminosity of six slides. The control group, which contained no confederates, gave the colour as blue. In the experimental groups, however, there were four participants and two confederates, and the confederates would consistently say that the slides were green. What did the participants do? As it turns out, 32% of them ended up being influenced by the confederates, and also called the colour green. It also turns out that, on average, participants in experimental groups said the colour was green more than did the control group. These results, and the results of his other studies, shocked the world in their demonstration that minorities also hold the power of persuasion.

So began the study of minority influence.

How the Individual Perceives the Message

Before we discuss the effects minorities have on groups, we will start with that which makes up groups: Individuals. A group change happens as a result of a change in the members of the group, and that can start with just one individual hearing a message from another individual, one who does not agree with the majority opinion. How much effort should we put into our arguments?

In a study done by Shuper and Sorrentino (2004), they found that uncertainty orientation has an effect on what kind of argument is more effective from a minority in order to change their opinion. Uncertainty orientation refers to a type of difference in how individuals process information. Certainty oriented people want to maintain and clarify what they already know, whereas uncertainty oriented people seek to learn new information about both their environment and themselves (Shuper & Sorrentino, 2004). What they ended up finding was strong arguments coming from a minority are more persuasive when the listener is uncertainty oriented and already agrees with the minority, or when the listener is certainty oriented and does not already agree with the minority.

Should, then, we also keep weak arguments in our arsenal, in case we meet an uncertainty oriented person who does not agree with our minority position? While the researchers did hypothesize this, they did not find any support for this. Strong arguments seem to be our best bet, even if they will not always be as effective as we desire them to be.

Argument victory. (2012). [Web Photo].

How the Group Reacts to the Message

Now, let us zoom out, in a sense, from the individuals and to the groups to which these people belong. Before Moscovici’s startling research, Asch also came across the power of minorities during his line studies (Asch, 1951). As a reminder, his studies involved participants judging the lengths of various different lines, and then saying which of them was the same length as the first line they were given. In each group, there was only one participant and several confederates, and these confederates would give the wrong answer. In one condition, however, one of the confederates would give a different answer than the others, an answer that was still wrong, but it was also closer to the correct one. What Asch found was that the presence of this one dissenter was enough to cause a significant number of the participants to stop giving the same answer as the majority. Suddenly, the minority had become a group that was openly dissenting against the majority.

Look for part 2 next week and find out how I used the other two comics from yesterday’s sneak peek!

———————————————————————————————-

Did you know that my book, Dreaming of Her and Other Stories, is on sale this month?

Basically, Amazon finally made the Kindle store available in Canada via Amazon.ca, and I got so darn excited that I put my book on sale at nearly 50% off (usually, it’s $4.99)!

You can go here to find out more about the book

…or you could head on over to Amazon and buy it to help support my university habit (my parents would really appreciate it).

May you have a lovely week!

*Because of the use of comics in this week’s post, everything between “Minority Influence” and the italics just above the dotted line are under a Creative Commons license*

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.