Minority influence and argument generation

Martin, Robin (1996). Minority influence and argument generation. British Journal of Social Psychology, 35 (1), pp. 91-103.


The theories of Moscovici (1980) and Nemeth (1986) concerning the cognitive processes underlying minority influence are examined in an argument generation paradigm. While Moscovici (1980) argues that minority influence increases the generation of arguments for and against the minority position, Nemeth (1986) proposes that minorities induce divergent thinking which leads to the generation of a wider range of arguments which are more original. In the first study, subjects read a minority text and then generated arguments concerning the minority issue within a specified time. The second study was similar to the first and included a condition where minority influence followed partial sensory deprivation (being placed in a dark, soundproof room for 45 minutes) which was predicted to decrease cognitive effort. Contrary to Moscovici, in neither study was there evidence that a minority led to more arguments being generated compared to a control condition (no influence). However, in one study, a minority led to more arguments being generated in the minority than in the majority direction. However, as predicted by Nemeth, in both studies a minority resulted in a wider range of arguments being generated than those proposed in the minority's message and these were rated by independent judges as being more original. Finally, as predicted, partial sensory deprivation led to a narrower range of arguments which were focused more upon issues raised in the minority text.


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