types of conformity


  • accepts group norms
  • private and public
  • permanent
  • continues without group present


  • group we value
  • change our opinions
  • privately disagree
  • temporary


  • go along with others
  • public change but not private
  • superficial
  • stops when group is gone
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Informational Social Influence

Key info:

  • we are uncertain - think everyone else is probably right - we want to be right
  • cognitive process
  • occurs when situation is ambiguous (or we are new to it)
  • common when decisions need to be made quickly
  • strong when one person or group considered expert


  • research - Lucas et al (2006) - more confomrity to incorrect answers when difficult maths question - even higher when students rated themselves as bad at maths


  • individual differences - Asch (1955) found students were less (28%) conforminst than other partcicipents (37%) - Perrin and Spencer found same in engineer students - more confident we are less influenced 
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Normative Social Influence

key info:

  • what is normal? - behave like that
  • emotional - want social approval
  • more inportant with people you know ie friends - need for social approval


  • Asch (1951) - partcicpents wo conformed to know answer said they were afraid of disapproval - when asked to write answers conformity rates droped 12.5% - conforming because of NIS


  • individual differences - care about being liked (nAffiliators) - McGhee and Teevan (1967) found nAffiliator students more likely to conform
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Two Process Theory

key info:

  • Deutsch and Gerard (1955)
  • ISI and NSI together
  • conform because of: need to be right (ISI) & need to be liked (NIS)


  • oversimplified - confomrity reduced when there is dissenting partner (Asch) - partner reduces power of NSI (provides social support) and ISI (alternative source of infomation)
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Asch 1951

  • 123 american male participants
  • 1 in group with 6-8 confederates
  • identify length of standard line
  • 18 trials - 12 were critical
  • participants gave wrong answer 36.8% of the time
  • high level of confomrity - Asch effect
  • 25% never gave wrong answer
  • 75% gave wrong answer at least once
  • many claimed to have conformed to avoid rejection (NSI) & continued to trust their judgement privately (compliance)
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Asch 1955

  •  group size - 2 confederated = 13.6% confromity - 3 confederates = 31.8% - adding more doesnt make a difference 
  • unanimity - dissenting confederate reduced conformity even if they still didn't give right answer - 25% confromity rate
  • task difficulty - ISI plays bigger role
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Evaluation of Asch


  • "child of its time" - Perrin & Spencer (1980) found 1 conformer in 396 trials (particpents UK engineering students - maybe more confident) - 1950s were more conformist times
  • task was artificial - likely to have demand characteristics - task was trivial (no reason to conform) - findings dont generalise to everyday (consequences are inportant)
  • findings only apply to certain groups - only men tested - Neto (1995) suggested wmen are more conformist (need for social relationships) - USA is an individualist culture  (low conformity) - Smith & Bond (1998) suggest high conformity in collectivist cultures ie China
  • only apply to certain situations - in experiment it was group of strangers  - Williams and Sogon (1984) found higher conformity among friends
  • ethical issues - decived - thought confederates were part of study 
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Stanford Prison Experiment (Haney et al)

  • mock prison in basement of stanford uni - aim: see if brutality of guards is due to personality or situation
  • 24 'emotionally stable' students assiged randomly to guard or prisioner
  • prisoners areested at homes, delivered to prison, blindfolded, *****-searched, deloused and issued unifrom and number
  • 16 rules enforced by guards - 3 at a time (shift)
  • De-individuation (losing a sense of personal identity) - prisoners had numbers not names - guards had unifroms and told they had total power
  • within 2 days prsioners rebelled - guards retaliated putting it down - then on harassed prisioners - conducting frequent head counts (some in middle of the night)
  • after rebellion, prisioners became subdued, anxious and depressed
  • 3 prisoners realesed early due to psychological disturbances 
  • 1 prisoner went on hunger strike - guards force fed him - put him in 'the hole' 
  • study stopped 6 days, planned to go on for 8
  • showed power of situation to influence people
  • all conformed to their social roles - more guards identified more brutal they became
  • Lucifer effect - 'barrel makes apples rotten' - situation not people - Zimbardo 
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SPE Evaluation


  • researchers had control over some varibles - emotionally stable & randomly assigned - behaviour due to situation not personalities - high internal validity


  • lack of realism - Banuazizi & Mohavedi (1975) suggest participents play acting to sterotypes - on guard based role off film 'cool hand luke' - Zimbardo's data shows 90% of prisioner convosations is about prision life - felt real to them - high internal validity
  • Fromm (1973) - Zimbardo understated dispositional varibles - one third guards applied rules fairly, third behaved burtally and other third was leanient - zimbardo exagerates situations effect & pressure to conform
  • contradicted by other research - Reicher & Haslam (2006) replicated SPE & prisoners eventually took control - Tajifel (1981) social identity theory suggests that the guards failed to make a shared group identity where as the prisoners did - brutality in orginal SPE was due to the guards shared social identity
  • ethical issues - zimbardo = prison superintendent - limited ability to protect participents
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Milgram (1963)

  • 40 male participants - newspaper add - 'memory study' - 20 to 50 years old - uskilled to professional
  • confederate 'learner' would be shocked by true participant 'teacher' with 'experimenter' confederate watching (in lab coat) - told they could leave at any time
  • leaderner given increasing shock everytime they get question wrong from 15v (slight shock) to 450v (danger - severe shock)
  • at 300v ('intense shock') learner would pound wall and give no answer to next question ("absence of response should be treated as wrong answer")
  • proded - please continue - please go on - the experiment requires you to go on - it is absolutly essential that you continue - you have no other choice you must go on
  • no one stoped below 300v
  • 5 stopped at 300v
  • 65% continued to 450v
  • participents showed extreme stress - sweat, tremble, dig nails into hand - 3 had full blown uncontrollable seizures
  • 14 psychology students before suggested 3% would go to 450v
  • after participants were debriefed - 84% glad to have participated - 74% felt they had learned something of personal importance 
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Milgram (1963) Evaluation


  • good external validity - relationship between experimenter and participant reflect real-life autority - Hofling et al (1966) tested obedience in nurses with unjustified doctors demands (21 out of 22 obeyed)  - can be generalised
  • replications - french documentary, contestants in reality TV show, constestants paid to give (fake) electric shocks - 80% gave max 450v to unncouncious man, they showed similar isgns of anxiety


  • lacked internal validity - Orne and Holland (1968) suggests participants knew shocks were fake - Sheridan and King (1972) gave real shocks to puppy, 54% males & 100% females gave what they thought was a fatal shock - 70% participant in Milgram believed shocks were real
  • Social Identity theory - obedience = group identification - participants identified with examiner - Haslam and Reicher (2012) suggsts 3 prods = appeals to science 
  • ethical issues - Baumrind (1964) critisised deceptions - believe role allocation was random - believed electric shocks were real
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obedience: situational variables

  • Proximity - teacher & learner in different rooms - in same room, obedience drops from 60% to 40% - place learners hand on shock plate, obedience rate dropped to 30% - experimenter says what to do over telephone, obedience droped to 20.5% with participenst pretending to give shocks or giving weaker ones
  • Location - rundown building rather than Yale - obedience fell to 47.5% - less authority
  • Uniform - in original experimenter wore lab coat - authority - when ordinary member takes over after experimenter gets phonecall, obedience dropped to 20%
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obedience: situational variables evaluation


  • research support - Bickman (1974) - people twise as likely to obey security guard rather than jaket & tie confederate 
  • replicated in other cultures - Miranda et al (1981) over 90% obedience in spanish students - Smith and Bond (1998) most replications take place n western society not  different to USA
  • control variables - Milgram systematically altered one varible at a time showing effects - varibel manipulation showing cause and effect 


  • lack internal validity - Orne and Holland (1968) suggest participants knew it was fake when "member of the public" took over - may have demand characteristics
  • provide an 'obedience alibi' - gives an excuse for obedience - Mandel (1998) claims offensive to holocaust surivors - Adolf Eichman
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obedience: social-psychological factors

Agentic State:

  • act on behalf of another person
  • opposite = autonomous state - act as an independent with own priciples
  • agentic shift - shift from autonomous to being an 'agent' 
  • binding factors - aspect of situation allowing you to ignore the damaging effect of behaviour

Legitimacy of authority:

  • obey people at the top of the social heirarchy 
  • authorities have legitimacy through society's agreement - their authority allows society to function smoothly
  • obey because of trust and upbringing - we learn to obey - parents and teachers
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obedience: social-psychological factors evaluation


  • agentic state research - Blass and Schmidt (2001) showed students Milgram film and asked who was responsible for learners pain - they said experimenter - they recognised his authority - legitimate authority (top of heirarchy) & expert authority (scientist)
  • legitimacy of authority is useful account of cultural differences in obedience - 16% of austrailians went to top voltage (Kilham and Mann 1974), 85% Germans did (Mantell 1971)
  • legitimacy of authority can explain real-life obedience - Kelman and Hamilton (1989) suggest My Lai massacre due to US army heirarchy - solider assume orders given to be legal even if they are not


  • agentic shift doesnt explain reserach findings - some did not obey - Hofling (1966) nurses should have shown anxiety as gave up responsibility, but did not - only account for certain situations
  • agentic state cannot account for Nazis - Mandel (1998), German Reserve Police Battalion 101 - men shot civilians in small polish village - did it event though not directly ordered to
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obedience: dispositional explanations

authoritarian personality: 

  • Theodore Adorno et al (1950) suggests unquestioning obedience is a psychological disorder
  • authoritarian personality includes exagerated respect for authority & contempt for people of inferior social status
  • personality originates in childhood - strict discipline & impossible high standards - conditional love
  • childs anger towards parents taken out on their inferiors (scapegoating) - Psychodynamic explanation
  • F-scale - authoritarians identified with strong people and contemptious of weak - conious of their and others status - have a cognitive style where there was no blurr between catagories of people
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obedience: dispositional explanations evaluation


  • support for link with  A-personality and obedience - Elms and Milgram (1966) inetrviewed participents who fully obeyed and all scored high on F-scale - just a correlation, may be third factor - Hyman and Sheatsley (1954) suggest personality caused by low level of education


  • explanation is limited - millions of germans obeyed Nazis not all have A-personality - more realistic it was Social Identity Theory - they identified with Nazi state
  • F-scale is politically bias - aimed at right wing veiws but left wing can be authroitarian as well
  • based on flawed methodology - Greenstein (1969) suggests test is worded in same direction so measures tendency to agree to everything  - interviewers knew who had A-personality & study hypothosis before interview - makes bias results likely - lacks validity
  • research uses correlations - no matter who string correlation between two varibles, does not mean one caused the other
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resistance to social influence

social support

  • conformity reduced when someone else goes against majority even if they too are wrong - Asch - dissenter acts as a model
  • effect is not long lasting, if model goes back to conforming so will participant
  • obedience is the say - fi one person disobeys others find it easier - Milgram saw disobedience rates increase from 35% to 90% when disobeying partner is there - thye free participant to use own conscience

Locus of Control:

  • Rotter (1966) internal ( I control what happens to me) vs extrenal (things outside my control control what happends to me) LOC 
  • range of LOC, high internal to high external - low inetrnal and external in-between
  • internals show greater resistance - take responsibility for thei rown actions  
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resistance to social influence evaluation


  • research evidence supports conformity resistnace is easier with partner - Allen and Levine (1971) found independence increased with 1 dissenter in an Asch type study - even if the dissener wore thick glasses and said he had problems with his vison - frees people from group pressure
  • research to support this idea in obedience - Gamson et al (1982) found higher levels of rebellion than Milgram with his participants in groups - 29 out of 33 groups (88%) rebelled
  • research supports link between LOC and resistance to obedience - Holland (1967) reapted Milgrams study but also measured to LOC in participants - 37% of inetrnals did not continue to highest v, 23% externals did not - increases validity of LOC


  • not all research supports link - Twenge et al (2004) meta-analysis over 40 years of US research showed people have become more indpendent but also more external - if resistance linked to internal LOC then people should have become more internal - this challenges link between internal LOC and resistance
  • Rotter (1982) found LOC only inportant in new situations - LOC only helpful in explaining some situations 
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minority influence

  • minority influence leads to internalisation - 3 process; consistency, commitment, flexibility
  • consitency - makes you rethink your own veiws - synchronic consistency = minority are all saying the smae thing, Diachronic consitency = saying the same thing over time
  • commitment - gains attention, create some risk to the minority demonstates commitment - Augmentation Principle = minorit pay even more attention 
  • Flexibility - Nemeth (1986) being consistant and repeating same arguments makes minority seen as rigid and puts off majority - shoudl adapt their viewpoints and accept reasonable arguments
  • Snowball effect - minority is added to and added to untill minority becomes majority 
  • Moscovici et al (1969) - group of 6 people view blue/green slides- (condition 1) confederates consistenly say slides were green = participants gave same wrong answer 8.42% of trials, 32% gave same answer on at least 1 trial - (condition 2) confederates were inconsistant = agreement fell to 1.25%- (condition 3) control group = wrongly identified colour 0.25% of the time
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minority influence evaluation


  • Moscovici et al (1969) showed importance of consistency - Wood et al (1994) meta-analysis of almost 100 studies showed constistant as most influencial 
  • research shows that change to minority position involves deeper thought - Martin et al (2003) gave prtcicpants message supporting particular veiwpoint & attitudes measured, then heard an endorsement of the veiw from minorit or majority & then conflicting veiw & attitudes measured again - people less willing to change opinion to new conflicting veiw if heard from minority than majority
  • research supports involvement of internalisation - moscovici = participents wrote down answer (private) agreement with minority was greater - inetrnalisation took place - reluctant to admit their conversion publically


  • research involves artificial task - ie. colour of slide - lacks external validity
  • applications of minority influence are limitted - majorities dont have to have numbers just power and status - minorities are commited, tight-knit groups with members who support eachother - research rarely reflects dynamics of these groups
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social influence and social change

  • think about the civil rightsd movement as an example
  • dissenters make social change easier - Asch
  • majority influence & Normative Social Influence (NSI) - health campaigns pay on conformity NSI by saiying "others are doing it"
  • Disobedient models make change more likely - Milgram
  • Zimbardo (2007) - once a small instruction is obeyed its hard to disobey larger ones - gradual commitment leads to 'drift' into new behaviour
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social influence and social change evaluation


  • Nolan et al (2008) had messages on front doors of houses saying "most residents are trying to reduce energy useage"  - there was a significant decrease in energy compared to control group (whose message had no reference to other peoples behaviour)


  • minority influence only indirectly effective - Nemeth (1986) suggests minority influence effects are indirect and delayed - took decades for drink driving to be bad 
  • nature of deeper processing has been questioned - Moscovici suggests that thinking caused by minority groups is a different cognitive process from majority groups - Mackie (1987) suggests majority influence creates deeper processing - you believe everyone thinks the same way as you, so when majority doesent you are forced to think about there areguments - doubting the validity of moscovici's theory
  • identification not mentioned - Bashir et al (2013) suggests people dont act enviroment friendly for fear of being assosiated with enviromentalists (minority) due to their poor repuation - minority must be able to identify with majority
  • methological issues - research tasks are artifical and dont have group dynamic present in real life
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