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.What I don't understand is why, if this is true, there are so many issues in which the country appears to be evenly split. For example, more than 10% of Americans believe fervently in either the pro-life or pro-choice position on abortion. Yet the country seems to be evenly divided on the question. Likewise with Darwinian evolution. It seems certain that 10% of the population is strongly committed to Darwinism, but the majority of people in the country is not.
"When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority," said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. "Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame."
An important aspect of the finding is that the percent of committed opinion holders required to shift majority opinion does not change significantly regardless of the type of network in which the opinion holders are working. In other words, the percentage of committed opinion holders required to influence a society remains at approximately 10 percent, regardless of how or where that opinion starts and spreads in the society.This all seems counterintuitive, but perhaps not. Perhaps there's a kind of cultural critical mass at which point a new idea explodes through the society. The article offers some examples, none of which seems convincing, but perhaps readers can think of some historical examples which confirm this research.