25% of a Group Can Change Everyone’s Behavior

In a very simple version of the tipping point theory, the new article says that in groups of 100,000 to 100,000, only 25–31% of the group can establish a new behavioral norm for the entire group . This conclusion comes from only one study with online participants, so its results should not be exaggerated, but it does at least show a consistent pattern in how a minority of group members can change the opinion of the majority.

In a study, participants were asked to name the person in a photograph and were rewarded for consent. Thus, the researchers urged the groups to come to a consensus on the name. They then told a subset of the members to convince the rest of the group to switch to a new name. That is, the minority of the participants had to force the majority to change their minds.

Researchers tested this process on a minority of different sizes. Sometimes 10% of participants tried to convince the other 90% to change their name; sometimes 30% convince another 70% and so on. The researchers found that the minority’s success rate rose to about 25% of the general group. That is, if only 20% of the group changed everyone’s mind, they would probably fail, but if 30% were to change everyone’s mind, they would almost certainly succeed.

Different solutions will require different percentages of adherents to behavior change. And most decisions matter much more than giving a photograph a fictitious name. But here’s the takeaway: When you want to change the behavior of a group, don’t start by talking to the whole group . First, have a part of the group on your side and, just like you, interested in changing the opinion of everyone else. Once you quietly pick up steam, you can make changes to the entire group.

The 25% Rule | Coglode


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