Minority Rules: Why 10 Percent is All You Need

What does it take for an idea to spread from one to many? For a minority opinion to become the majority belief? According to a new study by scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the answer is 10%. Once 10% of a population is committed to an idea, it’s inevitable that it will eventually become the prevailing opinion of the entire group. The key is to remain committed.

The research was done by scientists at RPI’s Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC), and published in the journal Physical Review E. Here’s the abstract:

We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc=10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. In particular, for complete graphs we show that when p<pc, Tc~exp[a(p)N], whereas for p>pc, Tc~lnN. We conclude with simulation results for Erdos-Rényi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.

From a press release on SNARC’s website:

“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.”

This has implications for all kinds of things, from understanding how religious and political beliefs spread, to why certain fashion trends catch on. And it certainly sheds new light on the seemingly intractable debt ceiling debate, and how a committed minority can drive the entire conversation. The research actually validates the entrenched strategy of the handful of House Republicans threatening to sink John Boehner‘s budget proposal. Turns out if you’re in the minority, you have less of an incentive to compromise than the majority does. Because if you stick to your guns, and reach that crucial 10%, your ideas eventually win out. Just as the graph from SNARC below illustrates:

Credit: SCNARC/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

[HT: Yale Fox]

Concerned Citizen

It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.
- Samuel Adams

Enough said


So... which one of you is the last monkey?

S solid

Theories are designed to be disproven. In the act of proving something is wrong we ALWAYS prove something is right. This entry is an attempt to prove faith to the unfaithful. Duality of science is its greatest flaw yet its strongest attribute.


One idea that has the potential to spread like this is veganism - with the internet - the true side of the "industry" is revealed - people see the truth in stuff like the excellent movie "earthlings"

Patricia P Tursi, Ph.D.

This is the hundredth monkey principle, and is also related to Dr Rupert Shelldrake's theories, (his video, along with Grahm Hancock's video were removed from mainstream Ted talks...censorship) and Dr. Candace Pert. There is instant communication, or as Dr. Shelldrake proposes a resonance. Perhaps the resonance reaches a stronger point with ten per cent!