When is a minority a minority? Active versus passive minority advocacy and social influence



Some conceptions of minority influence have stressed the impact of the mere existence of an unpopular, deviant position. Others (e.g. Moscovici, 1980) have emphasized the active opposition of a committed minority to a powerful majority. An active advocate is defined as one that is aware of the level of support for his/her position, expresses his/her position openly, and whose outcomes may depend on others' agreement/disagreement. In the present study, the potential moderating role of an advocates' active/passive status on opinion change was examined. When the issue was highly relevant to the target of influence, all that mattered was the quality of the source's arguments (i.e. majority≈ minority, active source = passive source). When the issue was not highly relevant to the target, though, active and passive sources had different impact: (1) active sources prompted attention to argument quality (for minorities) and heuristic compliance (for majorities); (2) passive sources prompted insensitivity to both the popularity of the position and to the quality of the source's arguments. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.