Study Shows Majority is Less Popular than Believed

September 8, 2011

Now we have a 10 percent rule. Wow.

It is not often that I question the conclusion of credible research, but it happens.  I couldn’t be such a self-professed lover of science if I abandoned the whole premise of critical thinking, but I digress.

Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas” is a fascinating read.  For the sake of debate, I will quote the findings directly as stated in the press release:

“Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.”

Intuitively, this makes perfect sense.  The idea of the workings of group mentality has been drilled into psych 101 students for decades; it’s textbook human behavior and frequently observed in reality.  It is no coincidence that the political rhetoric exhibited on the 24-hr new cycle is unwavering in its repetitiveness.  This latest discovery is merely a quantifying extension of an established idea.

Despite this, I am still wrestling with the concept as presented above.  Call my complaints overly finicky, but phrasing is important.  First, ‘always’ is a dangerous term.  Always.  Further, I find ‘society’ to be too vague to be meaningful.  Another issue I am having is the lack of time-scale definition for the shift to occur, and failure to mention the necessity of consistent communication of the lesser held belief.

An example: after a spot check of polls for confirmation, I believe it is safe to say at least 10% of the world’s population, or any smaller subset, generally is against war engagement in any circumstance.  I speculate this has been a consistent viewpoint throughout time, though the ruling majority has yet to bend to the will of the committed minority.  On the off chance world peace is achieved in the next two to ten centuries… does that count?

Could the prime proof of validity, the recent turn of regimes in the Middle Eastern regions, have occurred at such a pace without the help of online social media?

Barring semantics, I am behind the underlying principle and look forward to hearing advancement of the theory.  Applied to advertising and politics, once again we are shown manipulation of the general public is nearly effortless.  All the more reason to stick with critical thinking.

What’s the impact on search? If algorithms have a 10 percent threshold, the results will not reflect popularity but the biases of a minority of users. Black box algorithms are interesting in this context.

Sarah Rogers. September 8, 2011

Sponsored by, the resource for enterprise search information and current news about data fusion


One Response to “Study Shows Majority is Less Popular than Believed”

  1. Networks, Change and Managable Risk… – marketing, intellectual property, brands and beyond... on September 11th, 2011 3:08 pm

    […] Study Shows Majority is Less Popular than Believed ( […]

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta