Why people conform

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  • Explanations of why people conform
    • Normative Social Influence
      • It is possible to behave like the majority without really accepting its point of view. This is called conformity compliance.
        • A majority may be able to control other group members by making it difficult to deviate from the majority point of view, exerting pressures on individuals to conform.
          • Humans are a social species and have a fundemental need for social companionship and a fear of rejection. This is what forms the basis for narmative social influence.
      • Evaluation of normative social influence
        • Bullying
          • Garandeau and Cillessen (2006) have shown how groups with a low quality of interpersonal friendship may be manipulated by a skilful bully so that the victimisation of another child provides the group with a common goal, creating pressures on all group members to comply
        • Normative influence and smoking
          • Marketing campaigns aimed at young people have been successful at reducing the incidence of alcohol abuse and smoking.
            • It is generally accepted that norms bring about conformity, and that there is a strong correlation between peoples normative beliefs and their behaviour.
            • In a campaign aimed at 12-17 year olds, only 10% of non-smokers subsequently took up smoking following exposure to a message that most children their age did not smoke. In control counties where the campaign did not run, 17% of non smokers subsequently started smoking.
        • Normative influence and conservation behaviour
          • Rooms in a hotel randomly assigned to either an experimental or control condition
            • In control rooms, a door hanger informed guests about environmental benefits of reusing towels.
            • In experimental condition, door hagers had benefits listed and said that 75% of guests choose to reuse their towels.
              • Guests in experimental rooms reduced need for fresh towels by 25%.
    • Informational Social Influence
      • In some cases individuals go along with others because they geniunely believe them to be right. We do not only change our behaviour but change our own point of view. This is an example of internalisation.
      • Informational social influence is most likely when...
        • Situation is ambiguous
        • Situation is a crisis
        • We believe others to be experts
      • Evaluation of informational social influence
        • The development of social stereotypes
          • Witenbrink and Henly (1996) found that participants exposed to negative comparison information about African Americans (which they were led to believe was the view of the majority) later reported more negative beliefs about a black target individual
        • Political opinion
          • Fein et al (2007) supported the role of informational social influence in political opinion by showing how judgements of candidate performance in US presidential debates could be influnced by the mere knowledge of other's reactions.
        • Mass psychogenic illness
          • Jones et al (2000) used informational social influence to explain the phenomenon known as mass psychogenic illness - the rapid spread of illness signs and symptoms affecting members of a cohesive group that have no obvious physical cause.


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