Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas



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.

... "In general, people do not like to have an unpopular opinion and are always seeking to try locally to come to consensus. We set up this dynamic in each of our models," said SCNARC Research Associate and corresponding paper author Sameet Sreenivasan. To accomplish this, each of the individuals in the models "talked" to each other about their opinion. If the listener held the same opinions as the speaker, it reinforced the listener's belief. If the opinion was different, the listener considered it and moved on to talk to another person. If that person also held this new belief, the listener then adopted that belief.

... The researchers are now looking for partners within the social sciences and other fields to compare their computational models to historical examples. They are also looking to study how the percentage might change when input into a model where the society is polarized. Instead of simply holding one traditional view, the society would instead hold two opposing viewpoints. An example of this polarization would be Democrat versus Republican.

Our job is to make sure there is an unshakable 10 percent willing to stand up for the great truths of Genesis: we are made male and female and called to come together in love so children have a mother and a father.



  1. Amanda
    Posted July 27, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Yet, there is far more than 10% of the population that has an "unshakable belief" that LGBT people deserve equal rights to heterosexuals. Just as more than 10% of people think that NOM is on the wrong side of history.

  2. Scott Rose
    Posted July 27, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    It's very distrubing to see a religio-political force believing it can impose its religio-political will on the entire population if it makes up just 10% of the population. After all, the Wehrmacht uniform belt buckle said "Gott mit uns," God is with us. Hitler was baptized and never excommunicated. The Vatican wished him happy birthday every year he was in power. You can easily find videos of him telling hordes of Nazis that God is on their side. He believed it was divine providence that Germany should dominate the world. His faith in that was unshakable.

  3. Louis E.
    Posted July 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    The obligation to refrain from all homosexual activity is equal for everyone.Were people who resisted the rise of the Nazis "on the wrong side of history"? looked like that as long as evil held sway.

    That said,it is disappointing that NOM,which needs to function as a secular group to defend civil marriage,would invoke Genesis.Many of us are dubious about the Bible yet strongly attached to upholding the normative status of opposite-sex relationships.

  4. Barb
    Posted July 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    You don't have to be religious to uphold traditional marriage - just sane.

  5. Badger
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    “Our job is to make sure there is an unshakable 10 percent willing to stand up for the great truths of Genesis: we are made male and female and called to come together in love so children have a mother and a father.” There are so many ironies in that one sentence.
    Firstly it is good to see NOM finally admit what everyone has suspected for a long time. It is not a secular organization but a religious one. There is no harm in that but an important distinction to make when it comes to debating CIVIL marriage.
    Secondly, this is also a tacit acknowledgment that the usual secular arguments used against civil marriage such as the destruction of marriage and society as we know it, responsible procreation and other red herrings such as SSM leading to people marrying their sisters, pets and several people at once have all failed to convince the general public, where the rate of acceptance of gay relationships and SSM in particular is increasing at a rate for above anything ever seen before in the realm of great social issues of our time. Sounds like NOM are retreating to theological arguments when all else has failed.
    Thirdly, it is ironic that NOM is now resorting to Genesis to argue against civil marriage for same sex couples, exactly the same book of the Bible that the anti-abolitionists turned to in order to come up with religious arguments to justify slavery and why black people were only three-fifths of a person.
    Finally, NOM appears to be acknowledging that its views now constitute a minority status and appear to be appealing to the argument that minorities also have rights. Maybe they would like to join forces with Stonewall, the HRC and the log cabin republicans amongst others who all know a thing or two about what it is like to be a minority and how to fight for their rights. Could make for an interesting coalition!

  6. Posted July 28, 2011 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    People who are Intersex - born with bodies neither wholly male nor wholly female - have difficulties with that part of Genesis, the way astronomers have difficulty with the bits about stars being afixed to a Firmament that keeps the Waters Above from leaking in - except when the windows of heaven open to cause rain.

    Namely, that Genesis contradicts the facts. The Earth is not a Circle as stated in the Bible, but an oblate spheroid.

    This isn't such a big deal when it comes to cosmology, but when such warmed-over Babylonian mythology is used to deny people human rights, we have a problem. Especially by an organisation that has in the past pretended to be entirely secular, with no religious connection.

    Now that mask has slipped - ir been deliberately dropped now its served its purpose.

  7. E
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I love how we're just coming right out and saying it finally, that some people find gay marriage 'abnormal' and 'icky'. And to that I say just too flipping bad, there are lots of choices people make that I neither like nor approve of, often times those choices annoy, offend, and even at times take advantage of my available resources, but I don't get into huff about religious freedoms. This is the price of a free society that I gladly pay. And make no mistake that there are more than enough dedicated gay peope in this world to be that unshakable 10%. Because defending who you are will always be a greater force than maligning others. Maggie is so flippant and self-satisfied, I don't think she realizes how much she galvanizes us every time she opens her mouth. Okay I'm done

  8. Daughter of Eve
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    So, do the secularists have any kind of guidelines that can meet or exceed the consequences if following the 10 commandments? Let's see a list.

  9. Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Daughter of Eve - Actually yes, we do.

    In fact, it's a single, Greatest Commandment, uttered by one of the world's great moral leaders. He did "borrow" it from another leader, some 50 years before, but that's because he was a crackerjack religious scholar.

    I'll give the original first:
    "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it."

    The later, more succinct version is this :
    "‘Love your neighbor as yourself."

    You'll find the first ascribed to the great Pharisaic Ravvi Hillel in Shabbos 31a, the second to Jesus (in reply to a trick question by a Pharisee) in Matthew 22:39-40.

    If in implementing the detailed rules and regulations, the minutae in your particular religious book, filled with demons and fairies and Gods and the Easter Bunny, unicorns and dragons and giants or whatever, you violate this basic foundation, the one that all other Commandments are supposed to elaborate on - you've MISSED THE POINT.

    1 Corinthians 13 is also pretty good, and an excellent guide to secular humanism.

    Be KInd. Don't hurt others. Do as you would be done by.

  10. Karen Grube
    Posted August 1, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Let me politely remind everyone here that every time the voters of this country have been asked to vote on the issue of gay "marriage," they have said NO! Obviously, more than half of the voters of this country reject gay "marriage."

    The only poll that counts is the one at the ballot box, and the voters have spoken loudly and clearly that they support traditional marriage. That's just the way it is. The arguments for or against gay "marriage" are irrelevant. No one's listening any more. Obviously, people just know deep down that there's something right and best about traditional marriage, for their families, for our society, and for our country.

    You'll notice that in all of these posts that are supportive of gay "marriage," there is no mention of children. That makes sense, because in order to promote gay "marraige" you have to put the needs of children off the table and out of the picture.

    The public purpose of marriage is to connect a mother and father to their children and to each other. The only way you can make an argument for gay "marriage" is to leave out children, since those unions cannot create a child naturally and, when they do get outside interference to obtain a child, it ALWAYS separates a child from its natural, biological parents.

    So, as they have here, the supporters of gay "marriage" always have to justify the redefinition of marriage as being "fair" to adults, and ignore chidlren. They know that if they bring chidlren into the picture, it totally obliterates their argument. The voters of this country already get it.