Social Influence

  • Created by: Jade
  • Created on: 12-12-17 12:04

Conformity - types

Conformity is a type of social influence defined as a change in belief or behavior in response to real or imagined social pressure. It is also known as majority influence.

Internalisation is a deep type of conformity where we take on the majority view because we believe in it. Leads to a permanent change in behaviour.

Identification is a moderate type of conformity where we act in the way of the majority because we want to be a part of it, but we don't necessarily agree with everything it believes.

Compliance is a temporary type of conformity, where we outwardly go along with the majority view, but privately disagree with it. Change in behaviour only lasts while majority is around.

1 of 24

Conformity - explanations

Informational Social Infulence (ISI) is an explanation for conformity that states that we agree with the majority view because we believe that is is correct, and we accept it because we want to be correct. This may lead to internalisation.

e.g. when you don't know the answer in class but you go along with the answer of the majority, because you believe it's likely to be correct.

Normative Social Influence (NSI) is an explanation for conformity that states that we agree with the majority view because we want to be accepted and liked. This may lead to compliance.

e.g. when you go along with the majority's idea on where to go after school, because you want to gain social approval and you want them to like you.

2 of 24

conformity - evaluation of explanations

Research support for ISI - Lucas et al. found a greater conformity to incorrect maths answers when they were difficult.

Individual differences in NSI - people who are less concerned with being liked are less affected by NSI than those who care more. McGhee and Teevan found that students high in need of affiliation (nAffiliators) are more likely to conform.

ISI and NSI work together - conformity is reduced when a dissenter is present. NSI is reduced because the dissenter provides social support, and ISI is reduced because there is an alternative source of information.

Individual differences in ISI - Asch found that 28% of students were less conformist than others. Perrin and Spencer conducted a study invloving science and engineering students and found very little conformity.

3 of 24

Conformity - Asch's research

Asch wanted to investigate whether people would conform to the majority in situations where an answer was obvious.

Procedure:  Each group was presented with a standard line and three comparison lines. The participants had to say aloud which comparison line matched the standard line in length. In each group there was only one true (naive) participant the remaining 6 were confederates. The confederates were told to give the incorrect answer on 12 out of 18 trails.

Results: the naive participants gave a wrong answer 36.8% of the time, 75% conformed at least once.

4 of 24

Asch's variations

Group size - With 3 confederates conformity to the wrong answer rose to 31.8% from under 5% with one confederate. But the addition of further confederates made little difference, and after 7 confederates conformity decreased.

Unanimity - the presence of a dissenting confederate meant that conformity was reduced by a quarter of what it was when the majority was unanimous.

Task difficulty - When the lines were all made more similar in length conformity increased. Suggesting that  ISI plays a greater role when the task becomes harder.

5 of 24

Evaluation of Asch's research

A child of its time - Perrin and Spencer (1980) repeated Asch's research with engineering students, only one conformed in a total of 396 trials. Possibly because they were more confident in their ability to measure lines. It is also possible that because it was an especially conformist time in America when Asch carries out his research, it was the social norm to conform. This is a limitation of Asch's research.

Artificial situatuion and task - demand characteristics (a cue from researcher or situation that reveals purpose of investigation) meant that participants went along with the demands of the trivial situation. The groups didnt resemble groups that are a part of every day life.

Limited application of findings - only men were tested by Asch, and research by Neto suggests that women  might be more conformist than men as they are more concerned about social relationships. All the men were from the US (an individualist culture), and research by Bond and Smith in studies in collectivist cultures found that conformity rates are higher in these collectivist cultures.

6 of 24

Conformity to social roles - Zimbardo's research

Stanford prison experiment - Zimbardo wanted to see if prison guards behaved badly because of their personality, or if it's because of the situation.

Procedure - A mock prison was set up in basement of psychology department of Stanford University, they advertised for students willing to volunteer (volunteer sample) and selected those deemed "emotionally stable". They were then randomly assigned the roles of guards and prisoners.Prisoners were given a realistic arrest experience.

The social roles of prisoners and guards were strictly divided. Prisoners were issued a uniform and referred to only by number, they were dehumanised.

Findings - after slow start the guards took up their role with enthusiasm. Their behaviour became a threat to the prisoners psychological and physical health, the study was stopped after 6 days instead of the intended 14.The prisoners also conformed to their role, and mostly spoke of prison life.

7 of 24

Evaluation of Zimbardo's research

Control - a strength is that Zimbardo had some control over the variables; e.g the selection of participants (emotionally stable - assigned randomly to roles). This increases the internal validity of the study.

Lack of realism - Banuaziz and Mohavedi argued that participants were merely play-acting; and basing their performances on their stereotypes of how prisoners and guards should behave. e.g one guard said he based his role on a brutal film character. However, quantitative data collected shows 90% of prisoner's conversations were about prison life, this increases internal validity.

Role of dispositional influences - Fromm accused Zimbardo of exaggerating the power of the situation to influence bahaviour, and minimising the role of dispositional influences. e.g only a minority of guards behaved brutally, the others were fair and sympathetic.The differences in the guards behaviour suggests that personality plays a major role in wether or not you'll conform to a social role.

8 of 24

Evaluation of Zimbardo's research continued

Lack of research support - Reicher and Haslam did a partial replication of Zimbardo's study; and the prisoners evemtually took control of the prison and harassed the guards. The researchers explained this using the social identity theory (guards failed to develop a shared social identity but the prisoners did).

Ethical issues - Zimbardo had multiple roles in the study; a superintendent and lead researcher. When a student wanted to leave Zimbardo was in role as a superintendent and spoke to him as a prisoner, when he should've spoken to him as a researcher with responsibilities towards his participant.

Also, prisoners were not protected from psychological harm and they experienced emotional distress. However, it was concluded that there were no lasting negative effects after several debriefings over the years.

9 of 24

Obedience - Milgram's research

Obedience - form of social influence in which an individual follows a direct order (usually from authoritative figure).

Milgram wanted to know why Germans were willing to kill Jews in the Holocaust.

Procedure - 40 male participants were collected through a volunteer sample, and were told that the study was about memory and that they could leave at any time. Through a rigged draw, a confederate became the learner, while the naive participant was the teacher. Another confederate was the experimenter. The teacher was given a 40 volt shock before starting. The learner was supposedly strapped to electrodes in another room and given increasingly severe electric shocks by the teacher when they gave a wrong answer. (Ranged from 15 "slight shock" to 450 lablled "danger severe shock"). At 300 volts the learner pounded on the wall and gave no response to the next question, after 315 volts there was no further response. Teachers were encouraged to continue by experimenter if they expressed concern about continuing.

10 of 24

Obedience - Milgram's research findings

No participants stopped below 300 volts, 12.5% stopped at 300 volts ("intense shock"), 60% continued all the way to the end.

Qualitative data was collected - Participants showed signs of extreme tension; sweating, trembling, groaning. 3 had uncontrollable seizures.

Prior to study psychology students had predicted no more than 3% would continue to 450 volts.

All participants were debriefed, and in a questionnaire 84% said they felt glad to have participated.

11 of 24

Evaluation of Milgram's study

Low internal validity - Orne and Holland argued that participants behaved this way because they guessed the electric shocks weren't real. So the study lacked internal validity. However, Sheridan and King conducted a study where real shocks were given to puppies and 54% of male participants and 100% of female participants delivered what they thought was a fatal shock.

Good external validity - The lab environment reflected wider authority relationships in real life.  Hofling et al. supports this - nurses on hospital ward were obedient to unjustified demands by doctors (21/22 nurses obeyed).

Supporting replication - a documentary including a replication of Milgram's study; participants were asked to give someone (an actor) electric shocks in front of an audience. 80% of participants delivered 460 volts to a seemingly unconcious man; these participants also shows signs of extreme tension.

12 of 24

Obedience - situational variables

Situational variables - factors that influences the level of obedience shown by participants: baseline study at Yale University - 65% were obedient. Location changed to run- down office (47.5%), teacher and learner in same room (40%), teacher forces learners hand onto shock plate (30%), instruction given over phone (20.5%), experimenter played by 'member of public' (20%).

Proximity - physical distance of an authority figure to person giving the order.

Location - the place where the order is issued.

Uniform - authority figures often have a uniform that symbolises their authority, e.g police uniform.

13 of 24

Evaluation of Milgram's variations

Research support - Bickman had 3 confederates dress in different uniforms (security guard, milkman, jacket and tie). People were twice as likely to obey the security guard than the man in the jacket and tie.

Lack of internal validity - Orne and Holland suggested that participants saw through the deception and acted accordingly.

Cross-cultural representations - findings have been replicated in other cultures, e.g Miranda et al. found an obedience rate over 90% amoung Spanish students. However, Smith and Bond said most replications are still in Westen developed societies, so it isn't really cross-cultural.

14 of 24

Obedience - social/psychological factors

Agentic state - a mental state where we feel no personal responsibility for our behaviour we believe we're acting for an authority figure. People in this state will feel powerless to disobey.

Autonomous state - opposite of an agentic state; free to behave in accordance to their own principles, and feels responsible for their actions. The shift from autonomy to agency is called the agentic shift.

Binding factors - aspects of situation that allow participants to reduce effects of their behaviour and reduce their moral strain, e.g shifting responsibility to the victim.

Legitimacy of authority - an explanation for obedience that suggests we're more likely to obey an authority figure.

Destructive authority - when people use their authority to order people to go against what the believe is right.

15 of 24

Evaluation of social/psychological factors

Research support - Blass and Smith discovered that students blamed the 'experimenter' in Milgram's study rather than the participant, because he had a legitimate authority.

A limited explanation - doesn't explain why some participants didn't obey, and doesn't explain the findings from Hofling et al.'s study with nurses in a hospital, as they didn't show signs of anxiety.

Cultural differences - a strength of the legitimacy of authority explanation. e.g Kilham and Mann replicated Milgrams study in Autralia and found that only 16% went all the way, but in Germany 85% went all the way. Showing that in some cultures authority is more likely to be accepted as legitimate.

Real-life crimes of obedience - My Lai Masscre can be understood in terms of the power hierarchy of the US army.

16 of 24

Obedience - dispositional explanations

Dispositional explanation - any explanation of behaviour that highlights the importance of the individuals personality.

Authoritarian personality - Adorno et al. studied more than 2000 middle-class, white Americans and their unconsious attitudes towards other racial groups. They developed the F-scale to measure this. they found that people with authoritarian learnings (scored high on F-scale) identified with 'strong' people and were more contemotuous of the 'weak'. Also the authoritarians had a cognitive style, with fixed and distinctive stereotypes about other groups. There was a strong positive correlation between authoritarianism and prejudice.

Authoritarian characteristics - extreme respect for authority and obedience to it, and contempt for people they believe have an inferior social status. Everything is black or white.

Origin of authoritarian personality - formed in childhood through parenting.

17 of 24

Evaluation of dispositional explanations

Research support - Milgram conducted interviews with people who scored high on F-scale, believing that there may be a link between obedience and authoritarian personality. However, this is merely a correlation, there may be a third factor involved, such as education.

Limited explanation - can't explain obedient behaviour in the majority of a country's population; as these people must differ in their personalities in all sorts of ways. Social identity appears to be a more realistic explanation.

Political bias - F-scale measures the tendency towards an extreme form of right-wing ideology, Christie and Jahoda argued this is politically biased. They said that extreme left-wing and right-wing ideologies have much in common, including that they emphasis the importance of obedience to legitimate poitical authority.

18 of 24

Resistance to social influence

Social support - this helps people resist conformity; in Asch's research a dissenting confederat provided social support, and the participant didn't conform when the confederate went against the majority.

It also helps to resist obedience; in Milgram's variation the presence of a disobedient confederate cause obedience to drop from 65% to 10%.

Locus of control (LOC) - Julian Rotter proposed this concept; internals believe that they largely control what happens to them, but externals believe that things are out of their control; its mainly a matter of luck or other outside forces.

There is a continuum with high external and high internal at either end, and low internal and low external near the middle. 

People with internal LOC are more likely to resist social influence because they take responsibility for their own actions, and they're more self-confident.

19 of 24

Evaluation of resistance to social influence

Research support (resistance to conformity) - Allen and Levine conformity decreased during presence of dissenter, even if the dissenter had difficulty with vision.

Research support (reistance to obedience) - Gamson et al. participants had to work in groups and 88% rebelled, which is a lot higher than in Milgram's study.

Research support (LOC) - Holland repeated Milgram's baseline study; 37% of internals didn't continue to highest level, only 23% of externals didn't continue.

Contradictory research - Twenge et al. over az 40 year time period resistant in America has become more prominent, but people have also become more external.

20 of 24

Minority influence

Minority influence - a minority of people persuade others to adopt their beliefs, attitudes or behaviours, leads to internalisation or conversion.

Consistency - consistency in minority view increases interest. Synchronic consistency (all saying same thing), diachronic consistency (been saying the same thing for some time now).

Commitment - engaging in extreme/risky activities to draw attention to their views. Makes people pay more aattention (augmentation principle).

Flexibility - Nemeth states that this avoids putting off the majority, and the key is to strike a balance between consistency and flexibility; reasonable and valid counter-arguments should be accepted.

Process of change - increasing numbers of people switch from majority to minority; snowball effect takes place.

21 of 24

Evaluation of minority influence

Research support (consistency) - Moscovici et al.'s study shows consistency has a greater effet on others than inconsistency (8.42% agreement fell to 1.25% with inconsistency. Wood et al. carried out a meta-analysis of almost 100 studies and found that consisteny minorities were more influential.

Research support for depth of thought - Martin et al. found that people are less willing to change their views if they had listened to a minority group than if they were shared with majority group.

Artificial tasks - lack of external validity because tasks wouldn't occur in every-day situations, so the explanation is limited in what it states about minority influence in real-life situations.

22 of 24

Social influence and social change

Social influence - people change eachothers attitudes and behaviours.

Social change - occurs when whole societies adopt new attitudes and beliefs.

Special role of minority influence - draws attention, sonsistency, deeper processing of issue, augmentation principle, snowball effect, social cryptomnesia (people have memory that a change occured but don't remember how).

Lessons from conformity research - Asch's research shows that others dissenting has the potential to lead to social change, and environmental campaigns appeal to NSI, which can also lead to social change.

Lessons from obedience research - Milgram's research; disobedient role model is important. Zimbardo; obedience can create social change through gradual commitment.

23 of 24

Evaluation (social influence and social change)

Research support for normative influences - Nolan et al. hung messages on peoples doors - in one group it said most people are trying to reduce energy, in the other group it only made a suggestion that they should change. In the first group there was a significant decrease of energy.

Minority influence is only indirectly effective - Nemeth argued this. They are indirect because the majority is only influenced on matters on the issue at hand, and not the central issue itself, and it is also delayed as results aren't seen for a long time.

Role of deeper processing - Mackie provides evidence that majority views are processed more deeply than minority views, which challenges the central feature of minority influence.

24 of 24


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Conformity resources »