For many centuries, people have been studying such an important and valuable science as sociology. A special place in it is occupied by the problem of social influence. It studies the influence of the social environment on a person’s life. An invaluable contribution to this science was made by the experiment of Serge Moscovici. The psychologist studied the influence of the minority and the factors contributing to its manifestation. Consideration of the information obtained in this experiment may allow expanding and deepening knowledge in the field of social psychology.
Before proceeding to the discussion of the experiment itself, it is necessary to designate the concept of a minority. A minority group is often defined as a small part of a group that has norms and values that are different from the majority. Moreover, it does not have the authority and power to popularize its views. It is also worth noting that the minority is not always characterized by a smaller number. A minority may be a group that is held back by the majority due to its lack of education and, as a consequence, a lower status.
The stability of minority behavior is considered as one of the strongest factors of its influence. It consists of pursuing a certain fixed position and defending it before the majority. Butera et al. (2017, p. 317) state that “Moscovici’s main assumption was that all influence attempts to create a conflict and minorities should have an impact because they create a conflict and refuse whatever compromise is proposed to them.” Serge Moscovici is also considered to be the discoverer of the conversion theory.
The psychologist proved how the degree of influence that a minority can exert differs from the majority. It is generally believed that the more people hold a certain opinion, the true and genuine it is. This is also due to the fact that many people are ruled by the desire to be accepted by the group. Adhering to this opinion, individuals choose the side of the majority, which thus acquires a growing appeal. On the other hand, as a consequence of such opinions, the minority is seen as something negative. That is why a less influential group needs significant time to bring its views to other members of the group. Moreover, Moscovici showed that another important factor in the influence of a minority group is the behavior when demonstrating nonconformist views. Thus, he needs to take effective and thoughtful steps to convincingly declare his contradictory opinion.
Serge Moscovici conducted a whole series of experiments on the influence of a minority. In one of them, there were two fake participants in a group of six subjects. People were put in front of a white screen, thinking that they were undergoing a study on the perception of light. After that, they were presented with several slides with questions about their color and brightness. An interesting fact is that during the experiment, the participants were presented with images of various shades of blue. However, two fake participants, in some cases, said they saw green. Thus, the study showed that in eight percent of incorrect answers, people agreed with the fake participants, and about thirty percent called the color on the screen green at least once.
In the same way, an experiment was conducted with a control group. This was done to compare the results and compile a more effective conclusion. In this study, only a couple of times, the green color was named out of almost eight hundred attempts. In this case, the psychologist and his assistants did not consider the effect of the influence of fake people on a large group of subjects. Therefore, during the experiment, it was proved that a minority could have a significant influence on the majority without any obvious characteristics of an advantage over it.
Despite the success of the experiment conducted by the researcher psychologist, it has one condition. For the minority to prevail over the majority, the former must be united and consistent in its actions. Thus, fewer people should have firm, consistent positions when choosing an opinion. Furthermore, the experiment showed that a minority consisting of figureheads could exert influence at the level of internal beliefs. Therefore, it can be concluded that fewer people are able to change the perceptions and judgments of others.
At the same time, this impact may be purely unconscious and not manifest itself in a social group. McLeod (2018, para. 10) emphasizes that “minority influence is usually based on informational social influence – providing the majority with new ideas, new information which leads them to re-examine their views.” In addition, it can be concluded that stable and openly demonstrated opinions and views of the minority will help to spread influence and overcome the majority.
Some of the types of influence on the group are conformity and obedience. Conformity can be defined as a process that occurs when the majority influences the minority, in other words, it means compliance with the behavior of the group. However, in some cases, a minority who creates and gives convincing new ideas has the opportunity to successfully influence the prevailing opinion and change it. Obedience, on the other hand, is submission to someone else’s influence without the desire for change.
Therefore, the experiment of Serge Moscovici showed that the minority is able to exert a significant influence on the opinion of the majority. Moreover, a necessary condition for the effective impact of a smaller number of people is consistency and stability in advocating views that differ from the values and norms of the majority. Thus, it is necessary to further study the factors affecting the influence of minority opinion on the majority and its degree. In addition, the analysis of the mechanisms of influence and the process of changing the views of representatives of the majority of the social group.
In addition, with Serge Moscovici’s experiment, the French psychologist made a great contribution to science. It proved that the presence of a minority opinion could have a special impact on the majority. Moreover, it has been proved that the quantitative indicator of the minority does not play a decisive role. Furthermore, it can have a greater force if it is stable and unified. Previous studies have been based on the fact that the minority and the majority are dependent on each other. However, Moscovici’s experiment showed that a firm conviction in values and views is much more important in the formation of a certain point of view. The psychologist also proved that the quantitatively weak link of the group could bring more innovation with their ideas and increase the creativity of the majority.
Butera, F., et al. (2017) ‘Minority influence.’ In S. G. Harkins, K. D. Williams, & J. M. Burger (eds.), The Oxford handbook of social influence. Oxford University Press, pp. 317–337.
McLeod, S. A. (2018) ‘Moscovici and minority influence’, Simply Psychology. Web.