In addition to the rhythmic selection of important notes that the other answers point out, there is another effect at work: The pairs of notes that are one minor second apart act like approach notes + resolutions.
Our ear is used/designed (I don't really know which) to interpret the first note of many/most minor seconds as an approach note. The approach note is attributed some amount of tension, and a desire to resolve. The second note is interpreted as the resolution of the approach note, and as such as the note with the real harmonic significance.
By turning the chromatic pairs around, you make the approach note and the resolving note switch roles, shifting the experienced harmonic down by a half-step. This has the effect of changing the experienced scale because your ear tries to fit the approach notes into the scale as well. Now, approach notes below important notes like the tonic, have a major feel to them (the half steps in the mayor scale are below the tonic and the fourth), while notes leading down are more associated with a minor feel.
This effect is relatively independent to the rhythmic effect, which I believe plays an important role as well, and it works in the same direction in the example you've given. If you shift the downbeat in your example by an eights, the two effects will partially cancel each other, leading to a motive that cannot really decide whether it's major or minor.