Social Influence

HideShow resource information

Conformity: Types and Explanations

Types of conformity:

Internalisation: when a person excepts the group norms and changes their outside behaviour as well as their private opinions. Can be permanant and persists even when group aren't there. For example "They say gay marriage should be legal and now I do".

Identification: When someone changes their public behaviour to idenify/ become part of a group, even if they don't privately agree. "They say gay marriage should be legal and I want to fit in but i'm not sure if I agree".

Compliance: When someone goes along with other in public, but doesnt change their personal beliefs. Their change is temporary and stops when the group pressure stops. "They say gay marriage should be legal and I don't want to be seen as homophobic so I pretend to support it but I really think marriage should be between and man and woman".

1 of 21

Conformity: Types and Explanations

Explanations of Conformity:

Deutsch and Gerad 1955 argued we want to be right and be liked.

Informational social influence (ISI): We desire to be right about information. If we don't know the answer to something we usually go along with what other people say because it's most likely right. ISI most likely to happen in new situations or when it's not clear as to what is right or when decisions need to be made quickly, or when someone is regarding to be an expert. ISI is a cognitive process.

Normative Social Influence (NSI): We desire to be liked and not look silly. We are concenred about what is normal to that group as norms regulate that group. It's an emotional process as we fear rejection and want approval. It's most likely to happen when we don't know the norms so we look to other to behave. It's more important to friends than strangers because we are more concerned about what our friends think of us. It may be more in stressful situations. For example, if you moved to a new school and everyone wore their hair in a pony tail, you would to so you'd be accepted and not stand out.

2 of 21

Conformity: Types and Explanations AO3


ISI has research support: Lucas et al 2006 asked students easy and hard math questions. More conformity when hard questions were asked, which was true for students who had poo maths ability which shows we look to others for the answer.

ISI has individual differences: Asch found students conformed less than others (28% vs 38%). Perrin and Spencer found engineering students where least conformist in Aschs experiment. This shows they're differences in how we respond to ISI.

Two-process approach is oversimplified: There was reduced conformity when there was a dissenting partner in Asch's experiment. It's not possible to know whether it reduced ISI and NSI.

NSI has research support: Asch asked participants why they conformed and they said because they're self conscious. When they had to write answer, conformity fell to 12.5%.

NSI have individual differences: McGhee and Teevan, some are more likely to be affected by NSI and many don't.

3 of 21

Conformity: Asch's research

Asch 1951 Conformity Research: recruited 123 American male students. Each was tested individually in a group with 6-8 confederates. They all had to identify which line was the same length as the one on the left, A,B or C. First 3 confederates gave correct answers then the others gave the wrong answer. Participants gave wrong answer 36.8% of the time. This shows high level of conformity (Asch effect) when to which people conform even in unambiguous situation. 25% of participants never gave wrong answer, 75% conformed atleast once. They conformed to avoid rejection but continued to privately trust their own opinion (compliance).

Asch 1955 Variables affecting conformity: Group size vaired between 1-15.Two confederates = 13.6% conformity. three confederates = 31.8%.  Unanimity; Asch introduced true confederate. Reduced conformity to 25%. Task difficulty; made it harder by making lines more similar in length. Conformity increased so ISI plays greater role.

4 of 21

Conformity: Asch AO3

Asch Evaluation:

"Child of the times": Perrin and Spencer 1980, 1/396 conforming participants in UK students, less conformity. 1950's were more conformist. Asch effect isn't consistent over time.

Tasks are artificial: participants knew they were in a study so there were demand characteristrics . Trivial so need to conform.Not groups found in everyday life. Can't generalise.

Only applies to certain groups: Only men were tested. Women may conform more. USA has indiviudalist culture, conformity may be higher in collectivist cultures like China. Can't generalise.

Only apply to certain situations: Only works around group of strangers. William and Sogon found conformity was higher with friends. Depends on circumstances.

Ethical Issues: Participants will recieve. They thought confederates were genuine. Ethical costs weighed againest benefits. 

5 of 21

Conformity to Social Roles: Zimbardo's Research

The Stanford Prison experiment: 

Aim: set up mock prison in Stanford Uni to test whether brutality of prison gaurds is due to personalities or situation.

Procedure: 24 mentally stable students decided by a survey were randomly assigned guard or prison roles. They were arrested at their own homes, ***** searched, issued a uniform. Daily routines, strict rules and heavily regulated. Prisoners were called by numbers and guards had complete power. Guards had real uniform including sunglasses.

Findings: Within 2 days, prisoners rebelled. They ripped uniforms and swore at guards. Guards conducted frequents headcounts in the night and harrassed prisoners constantly. Created punishments for slight things. Guards took up their roles with euthusiasm and their behaviours threatened the prisioners health. They became depressed and some were relased early as they showed signs of disturbance, one went on hunger strike and was put in "the Hole". It was stopped after 6 days although it was susposed to go on for 8 days. The simulation revealed that situation influences people's behaviour as guards, prisoners and researchers all conformed to their roles. The more a guard identified with their roles, the more brutsl their behaviour was.

6 of 21

Conformity to Social Roles: Zimbardo AO3

Research had control over variable: Participants were emotionally stable and roles were set by chance which shows their behaviour was due to chance. Control increases internal validity.

Lack of realism: Someone suggested participants were play acting as their performance refelcted stereotypes of how prison guards are susposed to behave. 90% of prisioners coversations were about prison life. It seemed real to them. 

Understated Dispositional Influences: Fromm 1973 said 1/3 of guards behaved badly, 1/3 applied rules and 1/3 supported prisoners. Participants maybe exaggerated their power in the situation. Differences show despite situational pressures some still excercises right or wrong choices.

Lacks research support/contradiction: Reicher and Haslam 2006 was partially replicated. Prisoners eventually took control. Social indentity theory; gaurds failed to become a group, but prisoners did and refused to acept limits. Brutality due to shared social indentity rather than comforminty.

Major ethical issues: Zimbardo was lead researcher and prison superintendent. Students wanted to leave but he didnt let them. Zimbardo's ability to protect his participants from harm limits.

7 of 21

Obedience: Milgram's research

Milgram 1963

Procedure: 40 male paticipants from newspaper ad, aged 20-50 years, unskilled to professional.Given $4.50 for turning up. They drew up roles, conderate was always the leaner and the participants was also a teacher, a confederate was an experimenter. Leaner strapped into chair, teacher gave increasingly severe electric shocks everytime they got a question wrong. They were fake and learner was an actor. 15volts to 450volts. 300volts = learner stopped responding. When teacher looked for experimenter, they said "absence of response should be treated as a wrong answer". Unsure = 4 prods. "please continue", "the exdperiment requires you to continue","it is absolutely essential that you continue", "you have no other choice, you must go on".

Findings and conclusions: No one stopped pre 300volts. 12.5% stopped at 300. 65% continued to 450. Participants had extreme tension. sweat, tremble, three had seizures. Milgram predicted only 3% would continue. Participants were debreifed. 84% were glad to take part. 74% felt they had learnt something.

8 of 21

Obedience: Milgram's research AO3

Lacked internal validity: Orne and Holland suggested the participants thought the electric shocks were fake. However sheridan and King did the study on puppies and found 54% male and 100% female delivered a fatal shcok. 70% believed shocks were real.

Good external validity: Lab based relationship reflected real life authority. Hofling found levels of obedience on nurses by doctors was very high (21/22). Generalised.

Replications supported finding: French tv show "Game of death". Contestants paid to give people fake shocks. 80% gave 450volts. similar behaviour to Milgram's experiment. Supports Milgram's findings and shows they aren't a one off.

SIT is an alternative situation: Oberdience = group identication. Participants identifed with experiemnter. Only 4th prod demands obedience. Everytime it was used, the participants quit. After that they didnt identify wth experiementer. (Haslam and Reicher)

Ethical issues: Deception, fixed allocation. Betrayal of trust damages reputation of psychologists and their research. Deception makes them less likely to volunteer in future research.

9 of 21

Obedience: Situational variables

Explanations for obedience based on situational variables

Proximity: Teacher could hear learner but not see him. In a proximity variation where teacher and leaner were in same room, obedience dropped from 65% to 40%. In touch proximity variation, where teacher had to force shock, obedience dropped to 30%. When experimenter left room to give instructions by telephone, obedience fell to 20.5%. Participants gave weaker shocks or pretneded to give shocks.

Location: Study was done in run down building rather than Yale University. Obedience fell to 47.5% which shows they had less authority in this setting.

Uniform: Original = experiementer wore lab coat as sing of authority. In one variation exprimenter was taken out and replaced with a normal member of the public with normal clothes on. Obedience fell to 20% which shows uniform had strong viusal authority and cues obedient behaviour.

10 of 21

Obedience: Situational variables AO3

Research support: Bickman's study (milkman or security guard) showed people were twice as likely to obey the security guard than anyone else. This supports that uniform conveys authority

Lacks external validity: Orne and Holland said in variations, participants were more likely to relaise it was fake because of extra experimental explantion. may have been demand characteristics.

Replicated in other cultures: Miranda found 90% obedience in Spain. Smith and Bond noted replications in western countries aren't culturally different. Milgram's finding don't apple everywhere

Control of variables: Milgram alterned one variable at a time. Other variables were kept constant and study was replicated many times with 1000 participants. Control gives more certainty of changes cuased.

Conclusions provide obedience alibi: Milgram's findings are an excuse for obedience, suggesting the person isn't responsible for their actions. Mandel said this was offensuive to holocaust victims as it suggests Nazi's simply obeyed orders. Doesn't account prejudice of Nazi party.

11 of 21

Obedience: Social-psychological factors

Agentic State: Milgram. when we act on behalf of another person. We feel no personal responsibility for our actions. The opposite of this is the autonomous state where you're independent and free and behave according to your own principles. Agentic shift = the change between autonomy and agent. This occurs when we percieve someone else as an authority figure. They have power because of the social hierarchy. Binding factors = aspects of a situation that allow someone to ignore or minimise the effect or their behaviour such as money or victim blaming.

Legitimacy of authority: We obey people at the top of the social hiearchy. Certain people hold authority over others such as police. The authority these people have is legitimate agreed by everyone which allows society to run smoothly. We hand control of our behaviour over to these authority figures due to trust and upbringing. They have the power to punish others. History has shown that leaders, such as Hitler, use legitimate authority to be destructive and behave horribly.

12 of 21

Obedience: Social-psychological factors AO3

Agentic state has research support: Blass and Schmidt showed film of Milgram's study to students. They blamed the experimenter rather than the learner, as they were higher up on the social hierarchy. This shows they recognised legitimate authority as the cause of obiedience.

Agentic state doesn't explain research findings: Not all participants obeyed, surely everyone should obey. Hofling found that nurses should have shown anxiety when they gave responsibility over to a doctor but they didn't. Shows agentic state only accounts for some situations.

Agentic state can't account for Nazi's: Mandel described a story where German police shot civilians in a Polish town without any order to do so.

Legitimacy of authority is useful for cultural differences: 16% of austrialians went to top voltage level, 85% of germans did. Shows different cultures bring up their children differently to respect authority.

Legitimacy of authority can explain real life: Kelman and Hamilton suggest the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War can be explained by the hierarchy in the US army. Soliders assume the orders they're given are legal. Explain why destructive obedience is commited.

13 of 21

Obedience: Dispositional Explanations

The authoritarian personality: A high level of authority is pathological. Adorno wanted to understand anti-semitism in the Holocaust. People with this have exegerrated respect for authority and submissiveness, express contempt for people of inferior social status and have conventional attitudes towards race and gender. This originates from strict parenting in childhood(conditional love). This creates resentment in the child which they can't express on their parents so they do so on weaker people (scapegoating). Creates hatred for socially inferior people.

Key Study: Adorno et al 1950 studied unconcious attitudes of 2000 middle class white americans on other racial groups. F for Facism Scale was developed. People on this scale said things like "obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues a child can learn". Authoritarians identified with strong people and were very conscious and their and other peoples status. Thier cognitive style was very fixed with distinctive stereotypes about other groups.

14 of 21

Obedience: Dispositional Explanations AO3

Support for link: Between authoritarian personality and obedience. Elm's and Milgram interviewed highly obedient participants- they were all high on F-scale. However it's just a correlation and not evidence. Third facotr involved such as lower level of education.

Explanation is limited: Millions of germans displayed anti -semitic behaviour but didn't have the same personality. Unlikely they were all on F scale.Alternative explanation = social identity theory.

F- scale is politically bias: Christie and Johoda suggested the F-scale measures people with extreme right wing ideology. Chinese Communism is also based on authority. F- scale doesn't explain left wing ideology.

Based on flawed methodology: Greenstein suggests F-scale just measures tendency to agree to eveything. Researchers knew participants test scores and knew studies hypothesis which creates bias results. Suggests data is meaningless and this theory lacks validity.

Research uses correlations: Just becuase there is a strong corelatation, doesn't mean variables cause eachother. Can't claim harsh parenting causes authoritarian personality.

15 of 21

Resistance to social influence

Social support: Conformity is reduced by dissenting peer, reducing conformity with non conforming person. Asch found they don't even have to give right answer, just need to not follow majority. If the dissenter starts conforming again, so does participant. Milgram found indepedent behaviour increased from 35% to 90% with disobedient peer. May not follow peer but allows them to act from their own conscience.

Locus of Control: Rotter 1966. Internals place control with themselves "i did badly because i didn't study enough". Externals place control outside themselves "i did badly because the questions were hard". Internals show greater resistance to social influence because they take more personal responsibility for their actions. They're more self confident, higher intelligent and less need for social approval. These characteristics lead to greater resistance. 

16 of 21

Resistance to social influence AO3

Research evidence in resisting conformity: Allen and Levine found independence increased with one dissenter with Asch's study. This occured even if they wore thick glasses, showing they have bad sight. Not motivated by what they said but enables them to be free of pressure.

Research evidence in resisting obedience: Gamson found higher levels on rebellion than Milgram did. Participants were in groups to produce evidence that an oil company would use to run a smear campaign. 88% rebelled which shows peer support is linked to greater resistance.

Research evidence supports link: Between LOC and resistence to obedience. Holland repeated Milgram study and measured their LOC. 37% of internals did not continue to highest shock level. only 23% externals did not continue. Increases validity of LOC.

Not all research supports it: Twenge analsyed data from loc studies over 40 years (1960 -2002) showing people have became more independent yet more external. Challenges LOC. May be due to changing society.

May be exaggerated: Rotter found LOC is only important in new situations. If people have already conformed they would do it again even if they had high internal LOC. Shows LOC isn't helpful in most situations.

17 of 21

Minority Influence

Minority Influence: A small group influence the beliefs and behaviour of other people through internalisation. Through 3 processes: consistency, commitment. Consistency: makes others rethink their own views because the minorty keep saying it. Commitment: Activities must create some risk to the minority to help gain attention, for example, protests. Flexibility: Nameth argued cosistency and commitment can be off-putting. They need to adapt their point of view sometimes. Snowball effect: Over time, more people become converted. Gradually minority view becomes the majority view and social change has occured. 

Key Study, Moscovici et al 1969, Blue/Green slides: 6 people viewed 36 blue-green slides varying in intensity, then stated whether the slides were blue and green. Three conditions; 1)Confederates said slides were green, 2)Conderates were inconsistent, 3)A control group with no confederates. 1) gave same wrong answer 8.42% of trials, 32% gave same answer on atleast one trial. 2) agreement fell to 1.25%. 3) wrongly identified 0.25% off the time.

18 of 21

Minority Influence AO3

Research evidence: demonstrates importance of consistency. Wood metaanalysed 100 similar studies and found minority being consistent were most influencial.

Research evidence: Shows change to minority involves deeper thought. Martin et al's study found that people were less willing to change their opinions if they'd listened to a minority group instead of a majority group. Shows minorities message is more deeply processed.

Artificial tasks: Moscovici's study was far removed from how minorities try to change opinions in real life. In politics or Judiciary, ooutcomes are more important. Lack external validity.

Research support: Involvement on internalisation in monority influence. Moscovici varied study and made them write down responses. Agreement with minority is better which shows internalisation has happened. Shows people are influenced but won't admit it.

Applications are limited: Difference between majority and minority is complicated. Majorities normally have power and status whereas minorites are committed and tight-knit. Research rarely reflects dynamics.

19 of 21

Social Influence and Social Change

Lessons from minority influence research: 1950's America                                                            1) Civil rights marches drew attention to segregation. 2) The march was consistent. 3) Deeper processing, people who had accepted the status quo started to think about the unjust of it. 4) Augmentation principle, "freedom riders" tried to change segregated buses and they were beaten and suffered mob violence. 5) Snowball effect, Civil right activists gradually got attention of US governement. In 1964, Civil rights Act is passed, change from minority and majority. 6) Social cryptomnesia occured, people remeber change happening but can't remeber how.

Lessons from conformity research: Dissenters make social change more likely as shown in Asch's research. Majority influence and normative social influence (NSI), environmental and health campaigns provide information about what others are doing like reducing litter so social change is encouraged by drawing attention to the minorities behaviour.

Lessons from obedience research: Disobedient models make change more likely. Milgram's research, disobedient people made obedience plummet. Zimbardo said once a small instruction is obeyed, it becomes more difficult to resist a bigger one. They drift into a new kind of behaviour.

20 of 21

Social Influence and Social Change AO3

Research Support for NSI: Nolan et al hung messages on houses about how most residents wanted to reduce energy and there was a significant decrease compared to a control group.

Only indirectly effective: Nemeth suggests effects of minority influence are indirect and delayed. It took decades for attitudes about smoking to shift. People are influenced by a matters related to the issue and it takes time to see effects.

Deeper processing has been questioned: Moscovici said that minority influence causes people to think more deeply. Mackie disagrees, when we find a majority thinks differently we are forced to think hear about their arguements.

Identification is an important factor that is overlooked: Bashir et al suggest are less likely to be environmentally friendly because they don't want to identify with extreme environmentalists. Being able to identify with a minority group is just as important as agreeing with their views.

Methodological issues in research: We can criticise the studies on social change which lack external validity.

21 of 21


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Social Influence resources »