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Conversion theory/Moscovici: To try to integrate and explain both majority and minority influence, Moscovici developed conversion theory (Moscovici, 1980(1); for reviews see Martin and Hewstone, 2008(2); Martin et al., 2008(3)). >Majority/Social psychology, >Majority/Asch, >Minorities/Moscovici, >Social influence/Moscovici.
Moscovici: Thesis: both majorities and minorities can cause influence, but, to some extent, do so via different processes. According to conversion theory, majorities and minorities lead people to focus their attention on different aspects of the situation.
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(…) when faced with a majority, people want to be part of the majority group to gain social approval and because they assume that it is correct (…) without considering the content of [the majorities] arguments in detail.
(…) when faced with a minority, people want to avoid being seen as part of a deviant group but, at the same time, they are intrigued by the minority’s views and want to understand why it holds a different view from the majority. This leads to a detailed consideration of the content of the minority position, to evaluate its arguments, resulting in public rejection but private acceptance and change.
Levels/conversion theory: It is the different predictions made for majority and minority influence across different levels of influence (public versus private) that form the core theoretical novelty of conversion theory. Majorities are expected to lead to more public than private change, while minorities do the opposite.
Solution/Moscovici: we must make a distinction between manifest (public) and latent (private) levels of influence.
Manifest level: here, people are aware that their responses have changed.
Latent level: here, this change may be outside conscious awareness.
MoscoviciVsAsch: we have to go beyond the public level of influence that had been in the focus of previous research (see the experiments by Asch 1951(4), 1952(5), 1955(6)).
Moscovici’s analysis leads to the prediction that minority influence is likely to be greater at the latent or private level and, that this change will be unconscious to the individual.
Asch: [in Asch’s studies] many people publicly agreed with the majority but when responses were taken in private, and therefore were unknown to majority group members, rates of conformity fell dramatically. Moreover, when asked by Asch to explain their responses in his studies, many participants stated that they knew that the majority was wrong but went along with it out of a fear of appearing different or deviant.
Moscovici: In their afterimage studies Moscovici and Personnaz (1980)(7) had the novel idea of setting out to show that, in contrast to a majority, a numerical minority could change the way people see the world (in this case colours) even though they would be unaware of this change. >Method/Moscovici.
1. Moscovici, S. (1980) ‘Towards a theory of conversion behavior’, in L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 13. London: Academic Press. pp. 209–39.
2. Martin, R. and Hewstone, M. (2008) ‘Majority versus minority influence, message processing and attitude change: The Source-Context-Elaboration Model’, in M. Zanna (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 40: 237–326.
3. Martin, R., Hewstone, M., Martin, P.Y. and Gardikiotis, A. (2008) ‘Persuasion from majority and minority groups’, in W. Crano and R. Prislin (eds), Attitudes and Attitude Change. New York: Psychology Press. pp. 361-84
4. Asch, S.E. (1951) ‘Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment’, in H. Guetzkow (ed.), Groups, Leadership and Men. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press. pp. 177–90.
5. Asch, S.E. (1952) Social Psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
6. Asch, S.E. (1955) ‘Opinions and social pressure’, Scientific American, 193: 31–5.
7. Moscovici, S. and Personnaz, B. (1980) ‘Studies in social influence: V. Minority influence and conversion behavior in a perceptual task’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16: 270–82.
Robin Martin and Miles Hewstone, “Minority Influence. Revisiting Moscovici’s blue-green afterimage studies”, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017