Saturday, July 19, 2008
Researchers have also studied minority influence in the context of simulated jury deliberations, where a disagreeing minority prevents unanimous acceptance of the majority point of view. The minority group was never well liked, and its persuasiveness, when it occurred, worked only gradually, over time. The vocal minority was most influential when it had four qualities: it persisted in affirming a consistent position, appeared confident, avoided seeming rigid and dogmatic, and was skilled in social influence. Eventually, the power of the many may be undercut by the persuasion of the dedicated few.
How do these qualities of a dissident minority--especially its persistence--help to sway the majority? Majority decisions tend to be made without engaging the systematic thought and critical thinking skills of the individuals in the group. given the force of the group's normative power to shape the opinions of the followers who conform without thinking things through, they are often taken at face value. the persistent minority forces others to to process the relevant information more mindfully. Research shows that the decisions of a group as a whole are more thoughtful and creative when there is minority dissent than when it is absent.
-Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect p.266