Saturday, January 28, 2006

Minority Influence

This week I was looking at minority influence in one of my classes. We were discussing how an idea or opinion that at one time is only held by a few can many effect people and may even become a mainstream idea. For instance, this week door-to-door paper recycling facilities have appeared alongside our normal rubbish collections. It doesn’t seem long ago that environmental concerns like this were very fringy. The same could be said for buying fair trade or organic produce. Minority influence has real applications in many areas including my Christian faith.

The most important key to having that influence is consistency: across the minority, in the individual over time and between what we say and do. People may disagree with the minority only to agree later forgetting where the idea came from. But interestingly minorities’ influence is impaired if they appear too inflexible. Encouragingly a snowball effect can sometimes be seen – as the idea gains momentum more and more people are convinced. I think a good illustration of this is the film Twelve Angry Men where a jury is convinced one by one to turn to the view of the one juror who initially votes innocent.

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