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The decision-making process is an important part of everyday life for in-groups, out-groups, and individuals. This is done to express and change one's attitude toward something, or to hold a different perspective and belief. Cognitive dissonance is caused by opposing attitudes and behaviors that cause discomfort, causing an individual to change the attitudes or behaviors that cause the distress. Cognitive dissonance theory has a considerable impact on the minority group's power over the majority group. Minority control and the emphasis on cognitive dissonance theories drive successful minority influence. Minority influence takes the form of social influence whereby a member of the minority group tries to impact on and change the decisions of the majority and accept the behaviours and belies of the minority
Leon Festinger developed cognitive dissonance theory in the 1950s. Leon’s theory is an area of research that has established plenty of attention from personality and socials psychologists (Bem, 1967). A minority can involve social risk to overcome different barriers such as norms, social pressure and motivations to achieve what a minority set as an achievement. Moscivici (1969) was interested in minority influences and stated the importance of a behavioural style such as resisting social pressure and abuse to be an essential aspect of consistency where a minority hold their position in a group. Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance is very influential and has a big influence on the history of social psychology.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
This theory affects individuals who seek consistency with their own cognitions such as beliefs, behaviours, attitudes or opinions on a matter. Cognitive dissonance refers to an event that involves diverging of attitudes or behaviours, which leads to a discomfort in an alteration in one of the attitudes, belief or behaviours to decrease the distress and to increase balance (Festinger, 1957). If there is a deviation between attitudes or behaviours something must change in the cognition in order to reduce the dissonance (Tanford & Montgomery, 2014).
Minority influence is a form of social influence that is associated with exposure to a rationale minority position in a group. This influence can lead to an individual minority impact on the actions and decisions of the majority group. It moves the majority to accept and adapt to the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of the minority group (Aronson & Mills, 1959). A minority is aiming to recruitment members to influence a majority to approve the minority’s behaviours and beliefs.
Tanford & Montgomery (2014) found that both cognitive dissonance and social influence play a role in and affects the results of attitudes and beliefs in a group. Cognitive dissonance theory has numerous of factors that help to identify the importance in change of attitude. Psychology researchers such as Carl smith and Festinger have looked at forced compliance behaviour, decision-making and effort as the three main areas in the cognitive dissonance in relation to minority influence. Forced compliance behaviour is when an individual is forced into doing something they do not want to do. Dissonance is shaped between an individual's cognition and behaviour whereby cognition is what they do not want to do and behaviour is what they actually did.
It is takes time and effort to change a behaviour that is resulting in dissonance. The affected individuals try their best to convince themselves by doing the action resulting in dissonance without caring about the known consequences (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959). Minority influence has plenty of ways to reduce dissonance that is aroused by making a decision (Festinger, 1964). Increasing the attractiveness of a preferred alternative and decreasing the attractiveness of the prohibited alternative is a popular way to reduce dissonance by the minority influence. Efforts of a minority group to change the behaviours of the majority thinking and behaviours are essential in impacting and shifting the paradigm of cognitive dissonance. Aronson & Mills, 1959).
Festinger (1957) proposed that a theory called action-opinion could influence beliefs and attitudes by an individual’s action. It is focused on avoiding dissonance by weakening a member’s capability to make decisions. This theory can be manipulated by changing a group's beliefs, actions, norms and perception of action. In 1969 Moscovici and Zavalloni did an experiment to see if a consistent minority could influence a majority. From the experiment, it was evident that the minority significantly influence the actions and decision of the majority by changing the behaviours and attitudes of the majority towards matters that might result in dissonance. The experiment also showed the bigger the minority group the more influence they had on the majority group. The large size of the minority group acted as a source of confidence in their beliefs and opinions. (Moscovici et al, 1969).
For a minority influence to effectively impact on the attitudes, beliefs and actions of the majority in solving cognitive dissonance, specific theories has to come into play other the individual group’s actions. Consistency is an essential aspect of part of cognitive dissonance theory. The minority takes advantage of consistency in their beliefs and attitudes to change the behaviours and decisions of the other parties that might be experiencing cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). Minorities have to be consistent and united in their beliefs and actions in order to be inspirational in making social change. Gawronski (2012) argued that cognitive consistency symbolised a core motive, which is needed as a fundamental to achieve what a minority wanted to accomplish.
Gawronski’s main statement is that consistency would serve as the main factor cue for mistakes in an individuals/groups system of beliefs, thinking and reasoning when it comes to attitude and social change. The same year Kruglanski and Shteynber (2012) stated that consistency depends on the environment a person is in to achieve what is wanted. Consistency has a positive effect when it comes to desired beliefs, but if a minority is thinking negatively consistency will be unsuccessful towards undesired beliefs. Having a motivated reasoning towards believing what is correct is commonly driven by accuracy motive.
It is clearly evident that the minorities have a capacity of disproportionately influencing a larger group. It could b challenging for one person to change or have significant influence on a larger group. However, if the voice of one person is joined with others, they qualify to form a minority group and this boosts their confidence and makes them able to significantly influence the larger group provided they work in unison. The minority finds it easy to hold their views together compared to the majority group. Their passion often leads them to obtain expertise in their areas of interest and this increases their capacity to persuade and convince the majority groups and the relevant authorities. The majority groups who are experiencing cognitive dissonance often tolerates the opinions and attitudes of the minorities concerning a matter that brings about dissonance. They do so because they generally do not have the capacity to knit together de to their variances in interests. They seems to be conservative in nature and often time are willing to flex their opinions and views in order to fit that of other people in the group. This is unlike the minority group who holds similar interests and who agree in almost every opinion of the group.
If there is a diversion between attitudes or behaviours in a minority, the minority will not be able to a power over the majority to accept the influence that is trying to come out. The cognitive dissonance theory will make it possible to influence the minority to make a change in cognition to reduce the dissonance and the social influence will become more successful if winning over the majority to trigger a social effect. Lastly, the cognitive dissonance theory has powerful fundamentals to influence a minority by following steps, theories and factors on how to make social changes and influence a majority to come to a bigger influential group.
A good minority leader will be open-minded and follow the cognitive dissonance theory to increase attractiveness in chosen alternatives to get the best possible outcome of influence. Minorities do also focus on peripheral and focal attitude changes which are indirect and direct changes, a majority is more likely to change their view on peripheral (indirect) than focal (direct) attitudes.
Cognitive dissonance theory is a significant model in the explanation of the success of minority influence. This theory proposes that individuals of ten have the inner drive to keep their attitudes and behaviours in harmony with their cognition. The minority has higher chances of influence because they tend to have similar interests in a matter unlike the majority group who can often compromise their opinions to fit the interests of others in the group. Their balance of the various factors in the cognitive dissonance theory that embraces consistency contributes the success of the minority influence. The minority acts as foundations pf social change in the society as it has the capacity to positively or negatively impacts the majority suffering from cognitive dissonance. The unison of the minority acts as a pillar of change and cognitive consonance. Resolving cognitive dissonance requires tremendous efforts on the affected. However, with the help of the minority, the behaviours and attitudes of those experiencing dissonance can be effectively corrected. The minority opinions seem to be the most significant parameters in the shift of paradigms towards cognitive consonance. The effects of conflicting behaviours, attitudes and beliefs brought about by cognitive dissonance that eventually results in discomfort acts as the compelling factors for the success of the minority influence. In this regard, minority influence tends to repair and seal the wounds of dissonance in the cognitive system.
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Tanford, S., & Montgomery, R. (2014). The Effects of Social Influence and Cognitive Dissonance on Travel Purchase Decisions. Journal Of Travel Research, 54(5), 596-610.
Wood, W. (2000). Attitude Change: Persuasion and Social Influence. Annual Review Of Psychology, 51(1), 539-570.
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