AQA AS Psychology Unit 2: Social Influence

complete notes on Social Psychology: Conformity, obedience, and Social change.


Social Psychology. Key terms:

CONFORMITY: Yeilding to group pressure, either real or imagined. this can lead to a change in a persons beliefs and attitudes.

GROUP NORMS: Informal rules that groups adopt to regulate members behaviour.

INTERNALISATION: Internalising certain beliefs so as they become part of your own belief system.

COMPLIANCE: Going along with a group's beliefs publicly, to be accepted, but privately rejecting the beliefs.

INDENTIFICATION: Accepting a group's norms publicly and privately because you value the membership of that group.

OBEDIANCE: Complying with a direct order given by an authority figure.

META-CONTRAST PRINCIPLE: The tendancy to maximise percieved differences to other groups. (in-group differences to out-groups) 

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 AIM: To measure individual and group judgements in an ambigous situation

 STUDY: AUTOKINETIC EFFECT. A stationary point of light appears to move in a dark room. Participants were asked to estimate how far the light moved, indivdually and in a group. 

FINDINGS: Individuals established thier own norms through personal experience but once put into a group they formed a new estimate with the group, agreeing on a distance, even though the light never moved.

Showed Internalisation of the answers

ROHRER et al: Even a year after the experimant, group answers persisted, even though the group was no longer together.

EVALUTION: Laboratory study, easily replicated. Lacks ecological validity. Ambigous task.

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AIM: Thought Sherif's study didn't show compliance. Aimed to show power of social influence.

STUDY: 123 male participants were told they were taking a "Visual Perception Task". They were put into groups with 7/9 other confederates. Asked to call out which line (A,B or C) they believed matched the standard line and were last in the group. The confederates were told to answer wrong in 12/18 tasks.

FINDINGS: 37% or 1/3 showed overall conformity whereas 25% were completely independant. When asked about thier wrongs answers some said they felt maybe they were seeing wrong and began to doubt thier eye sight, others said they just did not want to seem silly.

Shows compliance as they pretented to agree even though they knew they were wrong.

EVALUATION: Well contolled Lab study. Easy to replicate. Lacks Ecological Validity. Deception Used. Fully Informed consent not recieved.  

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AIM: Whether gaurd brutality was result of a Role or Characteristic Traits. 

STUDY: 24 rigorously tested stable, non-violent, non-anitsocial male students given role as either Prisoner or Guard. Prisoners were taken on a sunday morning, searched, deloused and dressed in smocks and given numbers. Guards were given uniforms, batons and reflective glasses. Within a day the stable Participants rebelled and ripped off thier numbers and from then on it only got worse. Guards began to tourture the prisoners. 1 prisoner went on a hunger strike and was force fed then locked into solitary confinement. 

FINDINGS: Experiment was called off after 6 days and it showed that The power of the situation paired with the roles they undertook, influenced conformity. ZIMARDO & RUCH: behaivour can be explained by the strong prisoner and gaurd stereotypes we learn form the media + environmental cues fuelled behaviour. 

EVALUATION: It is criticised by SAVIN: The benefits do not outwiegh the terrible distress caused. ZIMBARDO: argues that All P's were DEBRIEFED and effects did not effect long-term. Full consent was given. Terminated once began to get out of control.

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Why do people CONFORM?


NORMATIVE INFLUENCE: The need to be accepted (ASCH study, leads to COMPLIANCE)

INFORMATIONAL INFLUENCE: Need to be right/Gain info (SHERIF study, leads to INTERNALISATION)

SOCIAL IDENTITY THEORY: When we become part of a group we form in-groups that we categorise ourselves in.

HOGG & VAUGHN:Social Identity is when an individual's self concept is derived from percieved membership of a social group.


Individual 14-15 year old boys were put in to groups on no basis. They quickly began to show in-group favouritism in tasks.

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AIM: Which factors could make a person obey an authority figure to such an extent as to harm another.

STUDY: A ad in the paper was put out for participation in a "Memory Learning Experiment". It was in Yale University and were greeted by a experimenter in a white lab coat. From a hat they were given FIXED roles of "teacher" and "Leaner". The 'Teacher' watched the 'Learner' get strapped into a electric chair and then was taken into another room where there was a electric generator marked from 15v to 450v labelled as Mild to ***. Teacher was told to test recall and adminster shock is Learner got it wrong. Learner was told to get answers wrong and scream dramatically. If P's refused to go on, experimentor was instructed to say, "Go On." or "It is eesential you carry on"

FINDINGS: Participants showed EXTREME TENSION: Shaking, sweating, stuutering. ALL 40 went on to 350v. 65% went on to 450v. 35% did not obey. Obeying Auothority figures is so ingrained into us that we'll sacrifice our moral concsince.

EVALUATION: DIANA: Ethical reasons. Deception used - was necessary. No Informed Consent - used presumptive consent. Psychological harm - Debriefed. RIght to Wirhdraw - did have the option 1/3 left.

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Why do People OBEY?


  • Legitimate Authority: Yale Univertsity is widely reknowned and in a Variaiton of Milgrams experiment when the study was moved to a apartment, obediance rate dropped.
  • Gradual Commitment: Once someone has agreed to something small it becomes hard to say no to a little more. Milgram's test, the voltage went up gradually.
  • Contractual obligation: once we agree to something we feel bound by some contract and find it hard to back out.
  • Agentic State: Milgram believed when asked to obey an authority figure we go into an agentic state where we are simply agents and our actions arent accountabel by us.
  • Buffers: Having buffers to deflect blame onto helps


  • ADORNO: AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY - result of harsh punitative upbringing, hostile unless to an authority figure.
  • Importance of self-justification.
  • Motivational Factors
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Resisting pressures to CONFORM:


  • NEED TO BE AN INDIVDUAL: FROMKIN: deindividuated students by telling them thier views were like everyone else and they were less likely to conform in ASCH's test.
  • NEED TO REMAIN IN CONTROL: DAUBMAN: tested participants and placed them in groups of high 'Need for contol' and not and partenered them up and told high need for control they were average compared to thier partners. they became irritated.


  • Gaining Social Support: In a variation of ASCH's test conformity dropped once the participant had a partner that also gave the "wrong" answer
  • Prior Commitment.
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Resisting pressures to OBEY


  • Personality traits: ELMS & MILGRAM 35% that disobeyed had high social resposibilty
  • LOCUS OF CONTROL: JULIAN PORTER devised locus of control. Having a Internal locus of control is to   believe that what happens to them is consequence of your own behavior . An external locus of control means to believe that what happens to you is a result of external factors like luck. A Internal Locus of control is linked with individuality and resistance to conformity
  • CULTURE: SMITH&BOND: people who belong to INDIVIDUALISTIC CULTURES are more likely to behave independently than collectivist cultures.


  • GAMSON et al: conducted a fake discussion and asked participants to discuss in favour of a topic and recorded it, then asked them to give signed permission to use this in court 32/33 refused.
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Social change is the process that occurs when a society adopts a new belief or way of behaving which then becomes widely accepted as the norm


Minorities must be seen to:

  • Be acting out of PRINCIPLE not self-interest
  • Have made SACRIFICES
  • Be of similar AGE/CLASS as majority
  • Have views in line with ZIETGIEST (whats popular atm)

Why these behaviours make minorites effective:

  • CONSISTENCY: consistent minorites disrupt established norms creating uncertainty
  • SNOWBALL EFFECT: once a few majorties move the others do too.
  • GROUP MEMBERS: were likely to be influenced by those we see as in our in-group
  • SOCIAL CRYPTOAMNESIA: ideas that are too radical at first get accepted and soon noone is sure where they came from. 
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Groups of participants, 4 naive and 2 confederates. 36 slides of the shade blue shown and they were asked the colour. confederates said green. In the consistent condition 8% moved in decision compared to 1.25% in the inconsistent condition.

This shows minorities should be consistent in thier views.

SAMPSON: In real life minorities arent of a lower social status and majorites have in the past crushed the minority view. We shouldn't ignore laboratory studies but should keep in mind the broader social conext.


THE LUCIFER EFFECT: 10 things to resist unwanted influence.

1) Admit Mistakes 2) Be responsible 3) Be Mindful 4) Assert you Individuality         5) Rebel Unjust Authority 6) Be Frame Vigilant 7) Have a balanced Time Perspective 8) Don't sacrifice Freedon for Illusion of Security 9) Oppose unjust Systems.

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