Social Influence

Everything you need to know about social influence for AS psychology

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Social Influence
Social Influence ­ is the process by which our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are
influenced by other people.
Conformity ­ is the tendency to change what we do, think or say in response to the
influence of real or imagined pressure from a majority group.
Kelman said there are three different types of conformity:
Compliance ­The person conforms publically, but continues to privately
disagree because they want to fit in and be liked. It's the shallowest form of
Identification ­The person conforms publically, as well as privately because
they have identified with the group. They feel a sense of group membership and
want to be like the rest of the group. The change of belief of or behaviour is often
only temporary.
Internalisation ­ The person conforms publically and privately because they
have internalised and accepted the views of the group as their own. It's the
deepest form of conformity.
Research into Majority Influence ­ Asch
Asch ­ asked student volunteers to carry out a line judgement task. 123 naive
participants were seated in rooms full of confederates. The confederates would give
unanimous answers on 12 of the 18 trials for each experiment that were wrong. The aim
was to see if participants would conform to the majority.
Overall, the conformity rate was 37% and 5% conformed on every trial. However, 25%
never conformed.
Participants were asked why they had conformed, there were 3 reasons:
Distortion of perception ­ a small number of participants said they saw the
lines in the same way as the majority.
Distortion of judgement ­ Some began to doubt the accuracy of their
Distortion of action ­ some participants knew they were right, but decided to
change their public behaviour.
People conformed in this experiment because of compliance. They wanted to be
accepted by others.

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Asch also varied his task.
He found the more difficult the task, the more likely people were to conform.
A small majority of 12 gave very little conformity, however under the pressure of
3, conformity jumped to 30%. Further increases in size had little effect.
Conformity levels dropped significantly with the presence of an ally.
The study lacks population validity because the sample used was all male
students. This means we can't make generalisations.…read more

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We may look at how other people are acting for clues and copy them. This
conforming in behaviour and attitude so it internalisation.
Strengths ­
It's supported by Asch's study, participants conformed when they didn't want to stand
Garandeau and Cillessen ­ found children with low quality friendships could easily be
manipulated into bullying others.
Schultz ­ found that hotel guests were more likely to reuse their towels if they were told
that other guests reused their towels.…read more

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Obedience is following an order because someone who has perceived authority told
you to. You obey because of a fear of punishment.
The difference between conformity and obedience is that the source of the social
influence is different. Conformity is likely to peer pressure whereas obedience someone
is likely to be giving you an order.
Milgram ­ aimed to investigate whether people would give fatal electric shocks on an
innocent person.…read more

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Lab Experiment ­ lacks external validity, however, extraneous variables were
controlled so cause and effect can be proved. This also means that it can easily
be replicated so therefore it's reliable.
Hofling ­ more realistic experiment, fake doctors asked nurses to administer
drugs over the phone and 21 out of 22 nurses obeyed.
Explanations of Obedience
Gradual Commitment ­ requests start small and reasonable, but quickly the next
order/instruction will be slightly worse, but there seems little difference so the person
obeys.…read more

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Mandel ­ to say holocaust perpetrators were just obeying orders is distressing for those
who were affected and means that they aren't responsible for their crimes.
Real World Application ­ Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the abusive behaviour of the
guards to the prisoners were gradual, with an unconcerned authority figure and
compliant peers.
Independent Behaviour ­ Resisting Social Influence
Locus of Control
Rotter ­ developed the idea of the locus of control.…read more

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Resisting Obedience
Status ­ the status of the authority figure is key. In a run down office people are
less likely to obey than in a posh lab.
Moral Considerations ­ Kohlberg ­ participants who resisted obeying has
higher moral principles.
Individual Differences ­ those who are less educated and more religious are
more likely to obey.
Proximity ­ resistance increases when closer to the victim.…read more


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