Social Influence

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Conformity: Yielding to group pressure. Change in belief/behaviour to fit in. Influenced by a larger group.

Kelman: 3 types of conformity. 

  • Compliance: Public but not private.
  • Identification: Not maintained once left group.
  • Internalisation: Forever.

Explanations for conformity:

  • Informational social influence: Desire to be right. Unfamiliar situations. Jenness' Jelly Bean experiment 101 students changed answers to group. Deception, lab, artificial?
  • Normative social influence: Deire to be accepted. Gain acceptance by agreeing. Asch.
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Asch's Line Study

123 male American undergrads presented with lines, real PP always last/2nd to last. 5% conformed everytime, 75% at least once. NSI. Not representative, population validity, America 1950s - conservative, expected conformity, McCarthyism. Artificial, lab, ethics - stress, deception (told it was a vision test).


  • Size of group (conform more when larger. 2 confedertaes - 13%, 3 - 32%). Bond and Smith supported - meta-analysis of 113 Asch-like studies across 7 countries, peaked at 4-5 condederates.
  • Task difficulty - harder = more (ISI?)
  • Unanimity - when PP given support, 32% to 5.5%, less intimidation. 
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Zimbardo's Prison Study

Investigaed social roles, following reports of prison brutality, due to situation?

21 male volunteer students all healthy, random assignment. Arrested, numbers, smocks, caps, chain, uninforms, whistle, billy club, cuff, sunglasses. Day 1 - harrassed etc. 2 - prisoners rebelled, guards used fire extinguisher, first prisoner released - breakdown. 3-5 - brutality continued, 3 other people left. 6 - stopped. Supposed to last fortnight. 

People readily conform to social roles. De-individuation (loss of identity/responsibility). Learned helplessness (stopped responsing to guards).

Informed consent, deceit, harm. 

Controlled - stable PPs, ranfom allocation.

Internal validity: case and effect.

Not all guards same - individual differences.

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Milgram's Obedience Study

Obedience: Form of social influence, follow direct order from someone in position of power. 

Investigating obedience after holocaust, 'Germans are different.' 40 volunteer American males aged 20-50. Yale, experimenter in lab coat. Mr Wallace - confederate, heart complaint. 'Random' allocation. Increasingly higher shocks. 150V - protests. 330V - silence. Please continue, you have no other choice, you must go on. Stress. Most asked to stop. Anxiety - lip biting, trembling etc. 3 PPs seizures. 100% to 300V, 65% to full 450V. People obey authority

Deception, informed consent, harm, $4 each - right to withdraw? Shocks - real? Orne and Holland said PPs delivered shocks because knew they were fake. 78% said they did believe they were real. Perry suggested real figure might be 50%. Not generalisable, artificial, lab. 

Hofling: 21/22 nurses obeyed  2x dose, unknown drug/doctor, no signed order. Real life.

Cultural: Spain - 90%, Aus - 28%, reflect culture (traditional neg view of auth.) Germany - 80%. Historical - authoritative. Burger - 70% obedience if told they could withdraw. Androcentric - focus on men. Sherida and King - male and female PPs shocking puppy. 54% M, 100% F to 450V.

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Explanations of Obedience: Agentic Shift

Believe acting on behalf of someone and so not responsible. Agent. Moral strain but powerless to disobey - lower. Most of the time autonomous, make agentic shift in presence of perceived authority figure. Binding factors - denying responsibility, victim blaming.

Milgram - in a 'remote authority' variation, confederates not in the same room, obedience declined to 20.5%. Autonomous. Original research - PPs said knew it was wrong but high ranked authority figure. 

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Explanations of Obedience: The External Explanatio

Situational variables

  • Location: Authority. Obedience higher institutionalised where authroity instilled in member e.g. army. Yale, variation in 'run down' office block - dropped to 47.5%
  • Proximity: How aware of actions. Closer to learner: less able to distance themselves, obedience fell. Same room - 40%, force hand 30%. Realisation of actions.
  • Uniform: Added legitimacy, grey lab coat. Bickman - 14% milkman, 38% security guard.
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Explanations of Obedience: The Internal Explanatio

The dispositional explanation. Personality characteristics. The Authoritarian personality, right wing views = obey. Adorno's F-scale questionnaire. Psychometric testing, clinical interviews. Hostile to inferiors, obedient of higher status.

Zillmer - 16 Nazi war criminals scored highly. Milgram. 

Response bias - worded in confirming direction. Altemeyer produced less piased, 'Right Wing Authoritarian,' equal number of pro/anti statements. 

Biased - right wing only?

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Explanations of Obedience: Legitimacy of Authority

Social hierarchy - those at top positions of power e.g. police, society dictate position - legitimate. Brought up to accept and understand they an punish. As a result, willing to give up some of our independence/trust people to use authority appropriately. Some exploit this - itler, charismatic leader, used legitimate authority to order lower down. Milgram - some participants ignored learner? Distress, focused on following procedure, duty.

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Resistance to Social Influence: Locus of Control

Locus of control: Rotter. Perception of personal control over own behaviour. High internal: Own decisions and efforts, responsibility, less reliance on others, achievement oriented, resist pressure. External: Life determined by environmental factors, e.g. luck, fate, more likely influenced. Don't believe they exercise personal control over life. 

  • Conformity: Spector - LOC scale to 147 uni students, high external conformed (but only in situations that produced NSI). Moghaddam: Japanese conform more than Americans and have more external (cross-culture but doesn't show in population).
  • Obedience: Holland - no relationship. Blass - reanalysed more precisely, internal more able to resist, especially if felt forced to obey - need control. Schurz - no relationship among Austrian PPs giving aultrasound but took more responsibility.
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Resistance to Social Influence: Social Support

Social support: Less pressure/intimidation. Start to conform/obey again, so does PP. Dependent to dissend.

  • Conformity: Supoport of non-conformist lowered overall conformity (Asch to 5.5%). Allen and Levine Asch-type study, conformity decreased with dissenter even when wore glasses and said he had trouble with his vision.
  • Obedience: Milgram - obedience dropped from 65% to 10%. 
  • London Riots (2011).
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Minority Social Influence

Small group influences large group. Usually have internal LOC. Rejection of the est. 'norms', move to position of minority. 

  • Consistency: Moscovici
  • Flexibility: Nemeth
  • Self sacrifice
  • Snowball effect: converts
  • Social cryptoamnesia: forget original source, detach eccentricity associated
  • Social change: when whole society accepts new 'norm.'
  • Tipping point: minority becomes majority
  • Majority influence factors: unanimity, group size, task difficulty
  • Legislation: government listens

Majority social influence: Immediate, compliance, high need for approval.
Minority social influence: Time, conversion, low need for approval

Similar in age and social standing minority, espousing view in line with current social trends.

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Consistency: unchanging more likely influential. The green/blue slides study. 4 PPs, 2 confederates per group, shown 36 slides of blue, asked to say colour aloud. Independent group design. 

1. Confederates said all slides green, 8% moved to minority.

2. Confederates called 24/36 slides green, only 1.25% moved.

Lab, all PPs tested for colour blindness. Minority need to be clear, not changing mind or disagreeing. Lack of ecological validity - overt, artificial?

Diachronic consistency: over time
Synchronic consistency: between members

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PPs in 4s, compensation for ski-lift accident, 1 confederate.

1. Low rate, inflexible, wouldn't change position.

2. Low rate, flexible, compromised slighty higher.

Majority much more likely to compromise and change view when flexible.

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Social Impact Theory

Individuals' behaviour can be predicted in terms of strength, status and knowledge, immediacy.

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Factors affecting minority social influence

  • Size of minority - 'weird,' 2 greater credibility than just 1.
  • Size of majority - equal in power etc?
  • Behavioural style of minority - consistency (Moscovici), flexibility (Nemeth).
  • Status - expert?
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Social influence in everyday life

Minorities bring about social change. Challenge majority beliefs and cause re-evaluation, changing private opinions. A single individual can bring about change.

  • Martin Luther King, maybe due to personality, situation or both.
  • Nelson Mandela - South African reform.

Positive social change improves group's status.

  • Suffrafette demonstrations - women's votes and position in society.
  • LGBT+ movements reducing discrimination. 

All went against society norms and brought about positive social change. 

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Social Influence Summary

Conformity: Kelman's 3 types. ISI and NSI. Asch, variables. Zimbardo, social roles.

Obedience: Milgram, Hofling. Agentic shift, legitimacy of authority, external explanation (location, proximity, uniform), internal explanation (Authoritarian personality, Adorno's F-scale).

Resistance to social influence: LOC (int. vs ext.), Spector, Moghaddam (conformity), Holland, Blass, Schurz (obedience). Social support: Asch, Milgram, London Riots, Allen and Levine. 

Minority social influence: consistency (Moscovici), flexibility (Nemeth), self sacrifice, snowball effect, social cryptoamnesia, tupping point, majority influence, legislation etc.

Social change: MLK, Suffragettes, Nelson Mandela. Positive social change improves status of group. 

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