Archive for August 9, 2011

Minority Rules: Only 10% of true believers can create a majority

A new result (cited below) from RPI is exploring the phenomenon of how a small number of deeply-convicted people can influence a whole social network.  They found that a small number of people with “unshakable belief” can influence majority opinion.  Only 10% of “true believers” scattered in a social network can sway the rest.

I wonder if this same phenomenon is at work in educational change and reform, too. Education is not yet a science.  Education decisions can be informed by research, but in the end, are decided by subjective measures.

We don’t have an ability to measure real learning (i.e., in the deep sense of changes in brain structure), so we can only measure performance or other outcomes (like retention rates), which we take as an operational definition of learning.  The same educational intervention may not generate the same results because of a myriad of factors, from socioeconomic status to teacher preparation.  For any educational claim, there is always room for argument and for interpretation.

In the end, educational decisions get made based on beliefs.  Changes in education practice often result from movements, led by advocates with unshakable belief in a particular approach.

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. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.

via RPI: News & Events – Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas.

August 9, 2011 at 8:52 am 4 comments


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