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

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Abstract

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.

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