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How do ideas expand? From the minority to the majority

How do ideas expand? From the minority to the majority

January 22, 2021

Throughout history, we have seen how the prevailing ideology in different cultures, societies and eras has varied enormously. However, we know that most people have beliefs that tend to be in accordance with those of the majority. The great ideological changes have been driven by ideas that have emerged from a few people and that over time have been accepted by many other fellow citizens.

Although initially the great discoveries and advances were seen with fear or even disgust, in the end many of them have reached social acceptance and have become the norm. Examples of this are found in the belief in the equality of races, creed, sexes and sexual orientations, or the consideration that the Earth was round and that it was not the center of the Universe. These changes are due to the fact that someone thought and defended ideas that were not shared by the majority until finally they were expanded by the population. We are talking about the expansion of ideas .

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What does an idea need to expand?

The expansion of ideas that start being sustained by very few people for eventually to end up being the mainstream of thought It is largely linked to the influence of minorities.

Generally, most of the population tends to seek and maintain certain criteria and beliefs in accordance with what society and the community usually dictate. The affiliation to these beliefs is relatively simple, taking into account that the environment and the sense of belonging facilitate that the majority ideas are absorbed by the population.

But minority or innovative ideas do not have it so easy to make their way , especially when there is already a pre-existing vision of the same topic followed by a majority.

For a minority idea to eventually expand, it is usually necessary first of all that the idea in question be perceived as consistent. That is, although it may present differences over time, these differences follow an identifiable baseline that is not modified.

It's about maintaining coherence, both intrapersonally and interpersonally (ie, the basic idea is the same for the person himself over time and also for the different people who defend it). This coherence must be maintained even in spite of the existence of pressures (whether explicit or implicit) or social disapproval of the majority, which nonetheless ends up paying attention to this persistence.

Another element to take into account is the fact that the expansion of ideas is not only between people belonging to the same minority group, but also that they arrive and are accepted by some exponents of the majority. This is important so that other people who are part of the same ideological trend will look at the new idea as something that has been acceptable by someone who belongs to the same group with which they identify. They would serve, thus, as an example so that the expansion of the idea in question takes place.

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The process of ideological contagion

The minority idea is not accepted immediately: the majority at first ignores it or even despises it . But little by little it is known about it, its consistency over time, and some people are sympathetic to the ideology in question. Little by little, some of the members of the majority go on to consider the idea as something positive, and in some cases they come to share it.

At the same time, said "conversion" is perceived by the rest of the majority group as something viable and begins to see that the idea is not only "the different", but something that can be embraced by others. And as it is shared more and more, it ends up reaching a significant number of the population, which in turn will generate increasing social acceptance. In the end, the idea that at first was considered strange can become the majority.

The inflection point

It is considered that there is a point of inflection from which an idea in principle minority becomes observed and expand at high speed. Some studies identify this point arrives when the idea or ideology in question expands to achieve about 10% of a population . Although until then the idea has been expanding, it is from this point that it begins to become a great social echo and reaches a level of expansion that can eventually become a majority.


Clear examples of the expansion of ideas are those that can be seen in the introduction to this article. The rights of blacks, of women and of homosexuals they were aspects that in their beginnings were considered aberrant and ridiculous, and that nevertheless to day of today (although still persist in some social sectors those who are against) are elements that are integrated or in process of integration in most of the society .

For example, two centuries ago to think that a woman could vote, that blacks had the same rights as whites or that someone who felt sexual inclination toward people of the same sex deserved and could love whoever they wanted was unthinkable, but today what is strange to most is the opposite.

Also multiple scientific advances, such as the performance of surgeries involving the opening of the body and the manipulation of internal organs (something unthinkable and criminalized in other eras), the importance of hygiene or much more recent elements such as research with stem cells They have undergone changes of this type. Even cultures and religions (for example, Christianity was persecuted for centuries by the Roman Empire until it became the predominant religion of that empire) have developed in the same way. Social movements, such as the recent Arab Spring They have also followed the same principle.

However, the truth is that good and positive ideas for the human being in general have not always been expanded. Ideologies such as Nazism or fascism in general have also emerged and expanded in the same way.

Bibliographic references:

  • Moscovici, S. & Personnaz, B. (1980). Studies in social influence V: Minority influence and conversion behavior in a perceptual task. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16: 270-282. Xie, J .; Sreenivasan, S .; Korniss, G .; Zhang, W .; Lim, C. & Szymanski, B.K. (2011). Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities. Physical Review E. 84 (1). American Physical Society.

Stupid Young Man Calls In To Argue About 'The Bell Curve' With Sam Seder (January 2021).

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