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Minority Opinion Persuasion

June 12, 2018

How many voices does it take to effect change?



Making minority opinions mainstream. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

What percentage of a population does it take to bring about a major change in public opinion? Ten percent? Thirty? In the journal Science, University of Pennsylvania researcher Damon Centola and his colleagues describe exploring this question by creating online communities with established norms, and then having sub-groups of different sizes challenge those norms.

DAMON CENTOLA (Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania):

What we found in repeated trials was once we hit the magic number of 25% we saw a dramatic shift in our population behavior where all of a sudden, very quickly, a majority of people in the population started using the new behavior.


Groups smaller than 25% of the population had much less success, and the changes they made were often reversed later. He says the work is a first step towards understanding how we maintain beliefs or change our minds in the face of challenges from others. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon