Resistance to social influence


Explanation 1: Social Support

  • Pressure to conform is reduced if there are other people not conforming, Asch's research showed that the dissenter doesn't have to give the 'right' answer but that simply having someone else not following the majority is enough. 
  • Asch's research also showed that if this 'non-conforming' peer starts conforming again, so does the naive participant. 
  • Pressure to obey can be reduced if another is seen to disobey. 
  • Milgram's research - independent behaviour increased in the disobedient peer condition (from 35% to 90%). 
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Explanation 2: Locus of Control (LOC)

  • Rotter (1966) described internal versus external LOC. 
  • Internals believe things that happen to them are largely controlled by themselves. 
  • Externals believe things happen outside their own control. 
  • People differ in how they explain successes and failures but it isnt simply about being external or internal. There is a continuum; high internal at one end, high external at the other and low internal and external inbetween. 
  • People with internal LOC are more likely to resist pressures to conform or obey. 
    • If someone takes personl responsibility for their actions and experiences (good or bad) they are more likely to base their decisions on their own beliefs. 
    • People with high internal LOC are more self-confiden, more achievement orientated, have higher intelligence and less need for social approval. These personality traits lead to greater resistance. 
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Strength - Research support

P - A strength is the fact that research evidence supports the role of dissenting peers in resisting conformity. 

E - Allen and Levine (1971) found independence increased with one dissenter in an Asch-type study. This occurred even if the dissenter wore thick glasses and said he had problems with vision (and thereby, couldn't judge the line lengths). This shows that resistance is not motivated by following what someone else says but it enables someone to be free of the pressure from the group.

E - Additionally, there is research support for the role of dissenting peers in resisting obedience. Gamson et al (1982) found higher levels of rebellion (i.e. independent behaviour) than MIlgram did. Gamson's participants were in groups of (to produce evidence that an oil company would use to run a smear campaign). In Gamson's study 29/33 groups of participants rebelled (88%). This shows that peer support is linked to greater resistance. 

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Strength - Support for LOC

P - Another strength is that there is research evidence that supports the link between LOC and resistance to obedience. 

E - Holland (1967) repeated the Milgram study and measured whether participants were internals or externals. 37% of internals did not continue to the highest shock level (they showed independence) whilst only 23% of externals did not continue. 

CA - However, not all research supports the link between LOC and resistance. Twenge et al (2004) analysed data from American locus of control studies over 40 years (1960-2002), showing that people have become more independent but also more external. If resistance was linked to internal LOC we would expect to have become more internal. This challenges the link between internal LOC and resistance. 

E - On the other hand, the results may be due to a changing society where many things are increasingly outside personal control. Also, in Holland's study, internals showed greater resistance. This support increases the validity of the LOC explanation and our confidence that it can explain resistance. 

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Limitation - exaggerated role

P - A limitation is the role of LOC in resisting social influence may be exaggerated. 

E - Rotter (1982) found LOC is only important in new situations. It has little influence in familiar situations where previous experiences are always more important. This is often overlooked. It means that people who have conformed or obeyed in the past in specific situations are likely to do so again, even if they have a high internal LOC. 

E - This is a limitation because it means that LOC is only helpful in explaining a narrow range of new situations. 

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