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Conversion Theory

 

Explanations > Theories > Conversion Theory

Description | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

In groups, the minority can have a disproportionate effect, converting many 'majority' members to their own cause.

This is because many majority group members are not strong believers in its cause. They may be simply going along because it seems easier or that there is no real alternative. They may also have become disillusioned with the group purpose, process or leadership and are seeking a viable alternative.

There are four major factors that give the minority its power:

  1. Consistency: Being consistent in expressing minority group opinion.
  2. Confidence: Being sure about the correctness of ideas and views presented.
  3. Unbiased: Appearing to be reasonable and unbiased in presenting ideas.
  4. Resistance: Resisting the natural social pressure and abuse that the majority may bring to bear on minority members.

In addition, to gain the confidence of the 'silent majority', the minority shows that it is not like the leadership of the majority, typically by visibly opposing them (something most of the silent majority would not dare do). They they show empathy and similarity with the target people, steadily subverting them and convincing them to join their alternative group.

Example

A business executive board is keen to acquire another company, although the decision is mostly being driven by the CEO and CFO. There seems to be consensus on this, but the CTO thinks it is crazy. He asks public and challenging questions about the move whilst talking quietly to other board members until he is confident he can call a motion of no confidence in the move.

An extremist group holds regular demonstrations against the local government, but does this peacefully, engaging people passing by in reasonable and persuasive conversation, getting them sign a petition and maybe come along to the next meeting...

So What?

Using it

If you are in the minority, do not worry. Find others who are like minded and teach them to be straightforward and consistent. Develop clear messages that position yourself as the 'voice of reason'. Spread the word whilst undermining the opposition.

Defending

When a minority starts up against you, as a majority leader or advocate, mobilize quickly to expose their methods and verbalize their message.

See also

Minority Influence, Conversion techniques

References

Moscovici, S. (1980). Toward a theory of conversion behavior. In L. Berkowiyz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 13, 209-239. New York: Academic Press.

Chryssochoou, X. and Volpato, C. (2004). Social Influence and the Power of Minorities: An Analysis of the Communist Manifesto, Social Justice Research, 17, 4, 357-388.

 

 

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