Minority influence: Personal relevance biases cognitive processes and reverses private acceptance

Melanie R. Trost, Anne Maass, Douglas T. Kenrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research found that a minority group advocacy elicits private acceptance of its message. However, these findings are from studies in which minorities advocate issues of low to moderate personal involvement for subjects. Theoretical considerations from the persuasion literature led to the hypothesis that high personal relevance could elicit rejection of a minority influence attempt. Results show that a minority source was persuasive when advocating a counterattitudinal position of low personal relevance. Under conditions of high relevance, however, the minority's arguments elicited only resistance. Positive responses to minorities under conditions of low relevance were replaced with minority derogation under high relevance. Analyses of mediating cognitive processes suggest that the valence and types of thoughts elicited mediated this resistance to the minority advocacy. The majority advocacy elicited undifferentiated responses, regardless of level of personal relevance. The study establishes that personal relevance can set an important boundary condition on minority influence, limiting the persuasiveness of a consistent minority advocacy on personally important issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-254
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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