Modeling Indirect Minority Influence on Social Change and Diversity
Updated: Oct 9, 2020
How can a minority be influential? Can a small minority lead to social change? What psychological processes give rise to new ideas? How do diverse minorities persist in pluralistic societies?
Indirect Minority Influence and
Social Change: An Enduring Puzzle
Indirect minority influence refers to a minority’s influence on majority attitudes toward related issues, even though the related issues were never directly discussed. Minorities create social change when their new beliefs are adopted by the majority as social norms. Crano's leniency contract theory posits cross-level causal links as a primary mechanism by which indirect minority influence produces social change. However, traditional methods in social psychology have not been well suited to dealing with such a mechanism.
Progress through Social Simulation
We use agent-based modeling to verify and rigorously investigate the cross-level link between indirect minority influence and social change. Consistent with Crano’s theory, simulation results indicate that indirect minority influence in combination with internal consistency can spread an initial minority position in spite of majority pressure to maintain status quo.
A Surprising Effect on Diversity
Another benefit of agent-based modeling and computer simulations is that researchers can isolate a specific mechanism from the other potentially interacting mechanisms. This cannot be easily done in empirical methods. When we let agents follow only the indirect minority influence rule without direct majority influence and internal consistency, we found that it maximizes diversity of attitudes within and across individuals in a society.
For more information about this research, please see the recent papers on the Publications page.