The effects of caffeine consumption on direct and indirect majority and minority influence

Pearl Y. Martin, Robin Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A study is reported that examines the effect of caffeine consumption on majority and minority influence. In a double blind procedure, 72 participants consumed an orange drink, which either contained caffeine (3.5mg per kilogram of body weight) or did not (placebo). After a 40-minute delay, participants read a counter-attitudinal message (antivoluntary euthanasia) endorsed by either a numerical majority or minority. Both direct (message issue, i.e., voluntary euthanasia) and indirect (message issue-related, i.e., abortion) change was assessed by attitude scales completed before and after exposure to the message. In the placebo condition, the findings replicated the predictions of Moscovici's (1980) conversion theory; namely, majorities leading to compliance (direct influence) and minorities leading to conversion (indirect influence). When participants had consumed caffeine, majorities not only led to more direct influence than in the placebo condition but also to indirect influence. Minorities, by contrast, had no impact on either level of influence. The results suggest that moderate levels of caffeine increase systematic processing of the message but the consequences of this vary for each source. When the source is a majority there was increased indirect influence while for a minority there was decreased indirect influence. The results show the need to understand how contextual factors can affect social influence processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1961-1979
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number8
Early online date2 Aug 2006
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


  • caffeine consumption
  • majority influence
  • minority influence
  • compliance
  • conversion


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