First published 30 July 2014
An Agent-Based Model of Indirect Minority Influence on Social Change
Jiin Jung and Aaron Bramson
The present study investigates how local majority and minority influences, in combination with an internal consistency process, affect cultural group formation and social change at a global level. We constructed an attitude updating algorithm based primarily on context/categorization-leniency contract theory. This theory postulates when, why, and how people are influenced by an ingroup majority to change an attitude (direct majority influence), by ingroup minorities to immediately change a related attitude (indirect minority influence), and eventually to change attitudes via an internal consistency process. These rules of social influence have been empirically validated in the field of social psychology. However, it is unknown how social influence processes following these rules at a local level lead to larger attitude group formation and social change (a process whereby a nascent opinion becomes the prevailing opinion) at a global level. The present study aims to fill this gap. With minimal assumptions, we implemented our social influence algorithm in an agent-based model to explore how majority and minority influences -- along with internal consistency processes -- each contribute to cultural group formation and social change. Our results reveal that persistently diverse attitude groups can emerge when minority and majority influences operate together; i.e., internal consistency is not a necessary condition, however it does facilitate attitudinal diversity and maintains it longer. Furthermore, even in the face of the direct majority influence, social change can occur via the indirect minority influence process when combined with internal consistency. We start here with a minimal model, but discuss directions for future expansions..