Social Influence


Types and Explanations (CONFORMITY)


internalisation-deep, public and private change

identification- part of a group, publicly chnage, may not privately agree

compliance- going along with others, superficial- behaviour stops when pressure stops

DEUTSCH AND GERARD 1955- two process theory

informational social influence- we agree as we believe majority is correct-> internalisation

normative social influence- want to be liked/ accepted-> compliance


support for ISI- LUCAS ET AL- answers to maths problems, conformity greater on more difficult q.

indiv. differences in NSI- some people less/ more concerned about being liked- nAffiliators-> McGHEE AND TEEVAN- students high in need of affiliation conform

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Asch 1951 (CONFORMITY)

unambiguous 'line comparison' task, 123 US males, naive participant in groups of 6-8 confederates. 18 trials, 12 'critical' confed. gave wrong answer 

naive participant conformed 36.8% of the time. 25% didn't conform- 75% at least once- NSI

Variations; group size (groups of 3, 31.8%, plataeued after 4) unanimity (introduced dissenter, conformity reduced) task difficulty (more ambiguous, conformity increased->ISI)


Child of its time- PERRIN AND SPENCER 1980> engineers in UK, only one conformed /396 trials- more confident? 50s more conformist time in US? Asch effect not consistent 

artificial- demand characteristics, no need to conform task was unambiguous, did not represent everyday groups (FISKE 2014)- generalisability

limited application- MEN, women more conformist (NETO 1995). US= individualist culture, studies done in collectivist cultures (China) conformity higher, oriented to group needs (BOND AND SMITH 1996)

Ethics- deception

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advertised for students to voluneer, paid $15 a day, selcted those who were emotionally stable (24 men). Randomly assigned prisoner/ guard. To heighten realism, prisoners arrested at homes, stripped and issued uniform/ number. 

Guards became a threat to prisoners, study stopped after 6 days, instead of 14. Prisoners rebelled, before becoming subdues, depressed, anxious. One released on day 1- psychological disturbance


Control over variables- selction of stable participants, randomly assigned roles- rules out differences- INTERNAL VALIDITY
Lack of realism- BANUAZIZI AND MOHAVEDI 1975- playacting, based on stereotypes. Zimbardo said however that it was very real, data showed that 90% convos about prison life

Dispositional influence- FROMM 1973- exaggeratng power of situation to influence behaviour, and minimising personality/ dispositional factors- only 1/3 guards brutal. Conclusiuon is over stated

ETHICS! psychological harm, right to withdram, deception, Zimbardos dual role as superintendent

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Milgram 1963 (OBEDIENCE)

40 male participants, $4.50, said it was a study about memory (DECEPTION) confederate (Mr. Wallace) always learner, whilst ppt always teacher, , also experimenter

'prods'- please go on, experiment requires you to condition, essential you continure, you have no other choice- RIGHT TO WITHDRAW?

12.5% stopped at 300v (noone stopped below) 65% gave 450v (Lethal) qualitative date- tension, seizures, sweat. Predicted only 3% would give lethal. 


Low internal validityORNE AND HOLLAND (1968)- ppt didnt belive set up, many expressed doubts about shocks (PERRY 2013). However, SHERIDAN AND KING 1972, shocks given to puppy- 54% males and 100% females gave lethal... Milgram said 70% of his ppt said shocks were genuine

Good external validity- relationship between ppt and authority figure, lab setting reflected wider authority relationships- HOFLING ET AL (1966) nurses, 21/22 obeyed - can be generalised

Replication- The game of death, paid to give electric shocks (fake) on  TV; 80% gave max shock, behaviour identical to Milgrams ppt

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Social- psychological factors (OBEDIENCE)

Agentic state, acting as an agent for someone else, have moral strain, feel powerless to disobey

autonomous state, free to behave according to own principles, responsible for actions

shift from autonomy- agency= agentic shift; percieve someone else as authority, social hierarchy

binding factors- aspects of the situation that allow person to ignore/ minimise damaging effect of behaviour, reduce moral strain- shifting to victim/ denying damage done to victims

legitimacy of authority- likely to obey people who have authority over us... may become destructive


Research support- BLASS AND SCHMITT 2001, showed Milgrams study to students, asked to identify who was responsible- blamed experimenter rather than ppt- obedience due to legitimacy of authority

limited explanation-  doesn't explain why some don't obey, or why nurses didn't display anxiety- only accounts for some situations of obedience

cultural differences- KILHAM AND MANN 1974- replicated in AUS, only 16% gave lethal shock, whilst MANTELL 1971 replicated in GER, 85%!- some cultures accepted authority as more legitimate , cross cultural research increase validity

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Dispositional factors (OBEDIENCE)

Authoritarian personality, ADORNO ET AL 1950, causes of obedience in study of 2000 middle class US, and their unconscious attitudes towards racial groups- developed F Scale. People with authroitarian leanings (high on F scale) identified with the strong, conemptous of the weak, conscious of statuses, respect for higher status. Also had a cognitive style, fixed stereotypes about groups- positive correlation between authoritarianism and prejudice

characteristics- obedient to authority, respect, , everything is right or wrong. results from harsh parenting, conditional love; love and affection depends on childs behaviour. creates resentment and hostility, cant express to parernts (authority) and so is displaced onto weaker; psychodynamic


research support- ELMS 1966, interviews with obedient ppt, scored high on F scale, , believing there is a link between obedience and authroitarian personality... merely a correlation

limited explanation- individual personality, hard to explain a country. Germany; anti Semitic behaviour, although all different pesonalities, unlikely they all have authoritatian... more realistic explanation= social identity, identified with Nazi state

Political bias- measure tendency towards extreme form of right- wing ideology; CHRISTIE AND JAHODA 1954; reality of left wing authoritarianism (Chinese Maoism), left and right have much in common- limitation as it's not a comprehensive dispositional explanation that can account fpr obedience to authority across political spectrum

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Resistance to Social Influence

Social support- pressure to conform/ obey reduced if others not conforming (ASCH)/ obeying (MILGRAM variation; obedience 65%-10% when disobeying confederate present), acts as a model


Research support for resistance to conformity- Dissenting peers. ALLEN AND LEVINE 1971, decreased with dissenter in Asch type study

Support for resistance to obedience- GAMSON ET AL 1982- higher levels of resistance in their study than in Milgrams; participants were in groups; 29/33 groups rebelled

Locus of Control ROTTER 1966- sense we each have about what directs events in our lives; internal= responsible for what happens, external= matter of luck/ external forces. Internal more likely to resist,; base decisions on own beliefs, resisting pressures of others. More self confident , less need for soical approval


Research supports link between LOC and resistance to obedience-  HOLLAND 1967 repeated Milgrams baseline study and measured whether ppt were internal/ external; 37% I did not continue to highest shock- increases validity

Contradictory research- TWENGE ET AL 2004 analysed data from US LOC studies from 1960-02. Over time, people are more resistant to obedience, but also more external, challenges link between internal LOC and resistance.

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Minority Influence

Minority influece-> internalisation

  • Consistency- attracts attention of majority, not swaying from cause
  • Flexibility- minority more convincing if accepet counter arguements
  • Commitment- augmentation principle, personal sacrifices show commitment

Gradually minority view becomes majority= Snowball effect


Support for consistency- MOSCOVICI ET AL (blue green slides) consistent minority opinion had greater effect than inconsistent

support for depth of thought- minority views have longer effects because they are deeply expressed (MARTIN ET AL)

artificial tasks-  lacking external validity, tasks often trivial, does not show real life

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Social Influence and Social Change

Special role of minority influence- minority influence is a powerful force for innovation and change, e.g. civil rights movement in US/ Suffragettes

Lessons from conformity research- NSI can lead to social change by drawing attention to what the majority is foing

Lessons from obedience research- disobedient role models. gradual commitment is how obedience can lead to change


support for normative influences- NOLAN ET AL 2008, investigated whether social influeence processes led to reduction of energy consumption, significant decreases

minority influence is only indirectly effective- social changes happen slowly, taken decades for attitudes on smoking to shift. NEMETH 1986, effects of minority influence indirect and delayed... limitation effects are fragile and its role in social influence very limited

role of deeper processing- it is majority views that aare processde more deeply than minority views, challenging central feature of minority influence

Barriers to soscial change- BASHIR ET AL 2013; people dont want to be stereotypes; i.e. environmentally friendly= tree hugger

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