Society consists of numerous interconnected, interacting, and interdependent groups. Of the many dimensions that differentiate these groups, perhaps the most important are power and status. The consequences of belonging to a larger, more powerful “majority” group versus a smaller, less powerful “minority” group can be profound, and the tensions that arise between these two kinds of groups are the root of society's most difficult problems. To understand the origins of these problems and to develop solutions for them, it is critical to understand the dynamics of majority–minority relations.
Social psychological research on intergroup relations has tended to assume (either explicitly or implicitly) that (a) majorities have more impact on minorities than vice versa, and (b) it is more important, for both theoretical and applied reasons, to understand the cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses of majorities than of minorities. In recent years, however, these two assumptions have been challenged, with the result that increasing attention is being devoted to how minorities influence majorities and how minorities respond to majorities' (often negative) reactions toward them. For example, research indicates that numerical minorities can exert influence when they adopt particular behavioral styles (e.g., Moscovici, Lage, & Naffrechoux, 1969) and that members of stigmatized minorities, such as African-Americans, perform worse on standardized intellectual tests when negative stereotypes of their group are made salient (e.g., Steele & Aronson, 1995).