Written 10/96 for CA266The Mascovici, Lage, and Naffrechoux study of 1972 found that the minority can influence the majority when the minority's responses are consistent and repetitive. They thought that this repetition engendered conflict within the majority, which prompted minority influence. Nemeth, Swedlund, and Kanki (1973) expected that repetition qua repetition was not important to minority influence. They expected that for a minority to have influence on a majority, the majority must pereive the minority to be wholly confident and consistent in its position.
To test this hypothesis, they based their study on the procedure used by Mascovici, Lage, and Naffrechoux (1972) in which subjects were shown blue slides of different intensity and asked to tell the colors they saw and report the brightness from one to five, one being the brightest. Two confederates, out of the total group of six, always reported green.
Nemeth, Swedlund, and Kanki (1973) wanted to show that the perception of consistency could cause the minority to influence the majority without having to repeat the same answer every time. The modifications they made to the experiment were to add four cases in which the confederates associated color choice with slide brightness: ``green'' with bright slides; ``blue--green'' with bright slides; ``green'' with the dim slides; and ``blue--green'' with the dim slides. They also added a ``random'' case, in which the confederates' responses ``blue'' and ``blue--green'' were not correlated to the brightness of the slides.
The situation was similar to what Mascovici, Lage, and Naffrechoux (1972) used. Four subjects were put in a room with two confederates and were shown a series of blue slides of varying brightness. As each slide was displayed, the participants announced, in order, the color they saw. The confederates were always in the second and fifth positions.
The results confirmed their hypothesis; the majority was influenced equally in each case which had the minority report an association between color and brightness reported. The influence in the random case was much less than the influence in the associated cases. This showed that perceived confidence was enough to cause minority influence.
Asch, in his classic 1951 study, showed that a single subject in the midst of a unanimous majority would conform to the majority about a third of the time. The experiment had one subject in a group of confederates, and the exercise was to compare line lengths. The confederates consistently reported the wrong answer, and the lone subject was influenced 32% of the time. Asch observed several different types of subject responses. The indendependant subject answered correctly and was not influenced by majority opinion. The yielding subject conformed to the majority 11 out of 12 times.
According the Asch's study, the yielding subjects reported that they were strongly influenced by the confidence of the majority members who were reporting the incorrect answers. This is the same reason that the majority was influenced in the Nemeth, Swedlund, and Kanki (1973) study: because the opposition was very confident in its viewpoint.
In the Asch study (1951), the yielding subjects usually assumed that the majority could see something they could not, or that they were missing something. The majority view had its power because of the numbers it held, the lone subject was prone to think: ``if so many people believe it is true and I do not, then I must be wrong.'' The minority subjects were likely to vocally agree with the majority even if they dissented privately.
In contrast, when the minority confederates reported ``green'' or ``green--blue'' in the Nemeth, Swedlund, and Kanki study (1973), the majority subjects were likely to reconsider their opinion and think ``yes, that actually does look more green than blue.''
Normative influence occurs when group members conform to the norms of the group, the majority opinion, in order to prevent conflict and ensure acceptance in the group. The majority influences the minority using normative influence. The majority defines the norms of the group and the minority wants to be accepted, so the minority conforms to the majority view to ensure group harmony and acceptance.
In contrast, informational influence happens when the goal is a high--quality decision and the decision is based on arguments, or at the least majority group members are still open to evidence and arguments. A minority cannot use normative influence to change the majority view; by definition the minority does not define the norms of the group. The minority can, however, use informational influence to change the majority opinion. The Nemeth, Swedlund, and Kanki study (1973) demonstrated this by showing that when the minority has a consistent position, and is very confident in that position, the minority can influence the majority. In the Nemeth, Swedlund, and Kanki study, the correlation between slide brightness and the color green suggested evidence for the correctness of its view to the majority.
Mascovici, Lage, and Naffrechoux (1972) demonstrated that a constant, repetitive, vocal minority can influence the majority. Nemeth, Swedlund, and Kanki built on this to show that repetition is not necessary; it is only necessary that the majority perceive confidence and consistency in the viewpoint of the minority for minority influence to occur. Minority and majority influence is linked to normative and informational influence; the minority can only have informational influence and the majority uses normative influence because it defines the group norms.
REFERENCESNemeth, C., Swedlund, M., & Kanki, B. (1973). Patterning of the minority's responses and their influence on the majority. European Journal of Social Psychology, 4 (1), 54 -- 64.
Asch, S.E. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgements. In H. Gvetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership, and men. (pp. 177 -- 190). Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press.
Moscovici, S., & Faucheux, C. (1972). Social influence, conformity bias and the study of active minorities. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental psychology, (pp. 149 -- 202). New York: Academic Press.