Minority influence and social categorization

Martin, Robin Peter Adolphus (1988). Minority influence and social categorization. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f80a


The aim of this thesis is to examine the effects of ingroup and outgroup membership upon minority influence and in doing so address a number of unresolved issues resulting from previous research. Research in this area is not only intended to resolve theoretical issues but relates to factors salient to minority influence in the "real world". For while there exist ingroup minorities (such as, environmentalists) there are also outgroup minorities (such as, black power).

A model of minority and majority influence is proposed which is a synthesis of Moscovici"s (1980) Conversion Theory and Tajfel"s (1984) Social Identity Theory. This new model proposes that when individuals are influenced they not only adopt the source's advocated position but also recategorize themselves as part of the source's group. As a consequence of this recategorization, individuals self-attribute the typical characteristics perceived to arise from the source's group membership. Therefore, on public responses, influence will be related to the degree of change to individuals' social identity from
self-attributing the source"s characteristics. The more undesirable the characteristics of the source, the less likely public influence will occur (since individuals avoid publicly joining an undesirable group). However, the more undesirable the source's characteristics, the more distinctive they are (in terms of attitude and identification) and the more likely they are to cause 'conversion' and have influence on the private (latent) level.

A number of hypotheses from this model are tested with experiments that examine the influencing abilities of ingroup and outgroup minorities. The findings support the proposed model.

The major findings are:
(i) on public responses, ingroup minorities tend to have more influence than outgroup minorities.
(ii) on private responses, the reverse pattern emerges, outgroup minorities tend to have as much, if not more, influence than do ingroup minorities.
(iii) the superior influence of ingroup minorities over out group minorities on public responses can occur when the categorization process is based on a relatively trivial dimension but only when there is a basis to self-attribute desirable characteristics. When there is no basis to self-attribute desirable characteristics then there is no difference between ingroup and outgroup minority influence.

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