Social Influence

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  • Created by: Abby18
  • Created on: 22-05-16 17:56

Types of Conformity

  • Compliance
    • When an individual directly change their behaviour and attitudes as a direct request of another individual
  • Internalisation
    • When an individual changes both their public and private view
  • Identification
    • When an individual changes and adopts their behaviour and attitudes to fit into a group
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  • Lab study of 123 male US students volunteered to test their vision
  • Each had to say which of the 3 lines was the same length as the standard line
  • On 12 of 18 trials, confederates were instructed to give the same wrong answer
  • On the 12 critical trials, 36.8% of the repsonses given by the real participants were also incorrect
  • Only 25% of the real participants never conformed in any of the critical trials
  • Without confederates giving the wrong answer, participants were correct in their judgements 99.9%
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Conformity - Evaluation

  • P - Took place in a particular period of US history when conformity was high
  • E - 1956 - USA was in the grip of a strong anti-Communist period when people were scared to go agains the majority
  • E - Perrin and Spencer found no evidence of conformity in 1980 with UK students. After manipulating relationship between ps and majority to make the costs of not conforming appear high, conformity levels rose close to Asch's
  • L - Conformity was more likely if the percieved costs of non-conformity are high
  • P - Confederates were unconvincing, which would cast doubts ont he validity of Asch's findings
  • E - Confederates would have found it difficult to act convincingly in their role when giving the wrong answer in a simple tak
  • E - Mori and Arai overcame this problem by using filters, which altered what each participant saw, removing the need for real confederates. Levels of conformity were similar to Asch's
  • L - Suggests that Asch's participants had acted convincingly and that the findings remain valid
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Why People Conform

Normative social influence

  • Individual conforms because of a desire to be liked and accepted by a group
  • The person conforms in action alone without needing to accept the group's view

Informational social influence

  • Individual conforms because they believe the majoriry to be right
  • The person conforms in both behaviour and attitude
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Why People Conform - Evaluation

  • P - The power of normative influence
  • E - Research has shown relationship between normative beliefs & likelihood of them smoking
  • E - Linkenbach and Perkins found that adolescents who were exposed to the message that the majority of their age peers didn't smoke were suubsequently less likely to take up smoking
  • L - Supports the claim that people shape their behaviour to fit in with their reference group
  • P - Real-world applications - changing people's attitudes towards conservation of resources
  • E - It is possible to use normative influence to manipulate people into behaving more responsibly
  • E - Schultz et al found that hotel guests exposed to the normative message that 75% of guests reuses their own towels
  • L - Shows that normative influence can be used to change people's behaviour
  • P - Research support for the claim that informational social influence shapes opinion
  • E - Research shows the important role informational influence plays in shaping political opinion
  • E - Fein et al showed how judgements of candidate performance in US presidential debates were influenced by knowledge of the reactions of the majority
  • L - Supports the view that we're influenced by majority view if uncertain of the right course of action
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  • 40 male volunteers told the experiment was on how punishment affects learning
  • Participants' job was to shock the learner when they made a mistake
  • Instructed to by authoriy figure
  • All participants went up to at least 300V
  • Only 12.5% of participants refused to continue giving shocks when they reached 300V
  • 65% of participants continued to obey up to 450V
  • Results were contradictory to predictions made prior to thE study where 4% went passed 300V

Milgram Variations

  • Proximity of the learner
    • In the same room as teacher, obedience rates dropped to 40%
  • Proximity of authority figure
    • Authority figure left room and delivered orders over phone, obedience rates dropped to 21%
  • Presence of allies
    • 2 confederates refused to continue, obedience rates dropped to 10%
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Obedience - Evaluation

  • P - Lacks internal validity as participants may not have been taken in by the deception
  • E - Orne and Holland claim that participants must have known they were not giving real shocks because the experimenter appeared unconcerned over the learner's distress
  • E - Orne and Holland suggest that participants have learned to distrust experimenters in psychology becuase they knew that the real purpose of the experiment is likely to be disguised
  • L - Milgram challenged this claim, pointing out that in post-experimental interviews, the vast majority stated they had believed they were giving real shocks
  • P - Ethical issues
  • E - Includes deception, informed consent and protection from psychological harm
  • E - E.g. participants were misled about the true purpose of the study as they had been told the study was about the effects of punishment rather than its true purpose
  • L - As a result, participants were effectively denied the right to informed consent although Milgram claimed post-experimental interviews found no evidence of psychological harm
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Explanations of why people obey

1. Gradual Commitment

Milgram's participants had already committed themselves to giving lower-level shocks. As a result, it was harder to resist the order to give shocks at higher level . As the transition from lower to higer shocks is very gradual, it is difficult for participants to change their minds about continuing and go against the authority figure

2. Agentic Shift

When recieving an order from someone in authority, people move into agentic state. They see themselves as acting as the agent of the authority figure and so more likely to obey.                         Milgram argued that people shift back and forth from an autonomous state, where they take responsibility for their own actions to agentic state, where they do not

3. The Role of Buffers

In Milgram's study the teacher and learner were in separate rooms (physical buffer). As a result they did not have to witness the consequences of giving shocks to the learner so they were more likely to obey. Buffers protect the individual from the distress they would experience when they carry out actions that harm another person, therefore are an important factor in obedience.

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Independent behaviour - resisting pressure to conf

Social support and the role of allies

  • People are better able to resist pressure to conform if they have the support of others
  • Asch found that the prescence of social support enabled an individual to resist majority pressure
  • Introducing an ally who resisted the majority caused conformity levels to drop sharply
  • Presence of ally makes individuals feel more confident and better able to stand up to the majority

Role of Morality

  • People are better able to resist pressure to conform if their decision has a moral dimension
  • For Asch's participants the costs of conforming were not particularly great given the insignificance of the task
  • Hornsey et al stated that if the behaviour is judged as immoral there is less evidence of conformity as the costs (e.g. guilt) are judged to be greater
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Resisting pressure to conform - Evaluation

  • P - Research support for the importance of morality in resisting conformity
  • E - E.g. Hornsey et al's study of the reationship between the strength of a person's moral views, and their conformity to a majority position concerning the rights of gay couples
  • E - Participants with a weak moral basis for their attitude shifted toward the group norm whereas those who had a strong moral basis for their attitude resisted the group norm
  • L - Among those with strong moral attitudes, motivation to resist the group norm was even stronger in the face of percieved opposition
  • P - Immoral acts may appear less immoral as other people's actions may make them seem more acceptible
  • E - Kundu and Cummins found that morally impermissible actions were judged to be more permissible if confederates judged them so
  • E - They used the Asch experimental set-up with participants making decisions about moral dilemmas either alone or in a group of confederates who acted as peers
  • L - Suggests that although morality may sometimes cause individuals to resist the majority position, the urge to conform may be stronger
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Independent behaviour - resisting pressure to obey

The Role of Disobedient Allies

  • Inidividuals can resist obedience if they have an ally who also opposes the authority figure
  • In Milgram's study, when two confederates refused to continue giving shocks only 10% of participants continued to the 450V shock level
  • Milgram claims that the presence of allies who resist an authority figure makes individuals more confident in their ability to do the same

Questioning Legitimacy

  • Human beings have a tendency to obey anyone who projects a commanding presence, either by their status or their context
  • By questioning the legitimacy of an order, or the person's right to give it, people are more able to resist obedience
  • When Milgram's study was moved from Yale uni to a run-down office, more people felt able to resist the commands of the authority figure
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Resisting pressure to obey - Evaluation

  • P - Role of disobedient allies has been shown by real-life example of resistance to authority
  • E - In the Rosentrasse protest in 1943, German women refused an order to disperse while protesting against the arrest of their Jewish husbands
  • E - Many women felt afraid to disobey but in the presence of others who were also prepared to defy authority of the Gestapo, they felt more confident about their own ability to do so
  • L - Demonstrates that the role of disobedient allies in resisting obedience is not simply a lab phenomenon but an important factor in real-life social protest
  • P - Real-world application of questioning legitimacy and its role in preventing air crashes
  • E - Research suggests a significant proportion of air crashes due to flight crew error can be attributed to inadequate levels of monitoring and challenging of the authority figure
  • E - Tarnow proposed the introduction of monitoring and challenging scenarios as part of the training of senior flight crews
  • L - Means that the first officer is given the opportunity to detect and challenge errors made by the flight simulations, and so avoid potentially catastrophic obedience in the future
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Independent behaviour - locus of control


  • Associated with the belief that an individual can control events in their life
  • What happens to them is seen as a consequence of their own ability and effort
  • People high in internality rely less on the opinions of others, which means they are better able to resist social influence
  • They take more responsibility for what they do & are more likely to display independent behaviour


  • Associated with the belief that what happens to an individual is determined by external factors
  • E.g the actions of others or luck
  • People with an external locus approach events with a more passive and fatalistic attitude
  • As a result, they take less responsibility for their actions and are less likely to display independent behaviour
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Social change - minority influence

If an individual is exposed to a persuasive argument under certain condition, they may change their views to match those of the minority

  • Drawing attention to an issue
    • Minorites can bring about social change by drawing attention to a particular social issue
  • Creating a conflict
    • Causes a conflict in the minds of the majority, between what they currently believe and the position advocated by the minority
  • Consistent with each other and over time
    • Social change is more likely when minority is consistent in their position
  • The augmentation principle
    • If a minority appears willing to suffer for their views as they're taken more seriously
  • The snowball effect
    • Minority influence initially has a relatively small effect but this then spreads more widely until it eventually leads to a large-scale social change
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Social change - Suffragettes

  • They used educational, political and militant tactics to draw attention to the fact that women were denied the same voting rights as men
  • They created a conflict in the mind of majority members betweeen the majority position and the position advocated by the suffragettes
  • The suffragettes were consistent in their views, regardless of the attitudes of those around them.
  • Because suffragettes were willing to risk imprisonment or even death from hunger strike, their influenced became more powerful (augmentation principle)
  • Several years after the actions of the suffragettes were finally given the vote. At this point the idea had finally spread to the majority of people (an example of the snowball effect)
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Social Change - Evaluation - Strengths

  • P - Research evidence supporting the influence of minorities in changing the ways in which majorities think about the issue
  • E - Wood et al found, from a meta-analysis, that on private measures of change, minorities had equal or greater influence than majorities
  • E - Minorities that were especially consistent had greater influence than less consistent sources
  • L - In public, minority sources generated less change than majorities, which suggests that although minorities cna change the way people think they are still concerned about not doing or saying anything in public that might alienate them from the majority
  • P - There's real value in minority influence research for increasing our understanding of terrorism
  • E - Kruglanski arues that, based on similarities in how minorities generally and terrorists specifcally exert their influence, minority influence research is a powerful tool for increasing our understanding terrorism
  • E - The observation of society's reactions to terrorism as well as the limitations of terrorism as a social influence tactic can also teach us more about minority influence
  • L - Although minority influence has usually been associated with the actions of non-violent minorities, it can also be a tactic used by violent minorities to bring about social change
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Social Change - Evaluation - Weaknesses

  • P - Social change due to minority influence is very gradual
  • E - History challenges the claim that groups such as the suffragettes can bring about social change quickly
  • E - Because there is a strong tendency for human beings to conform to the majority position, groups are more likely to maintain the status quo rather than engage in social change
  • L - This explains why social change happens so slowly and why the suffragettes fought for their views for 15 years before social change was achieved
  • P - Minorities are seen as deviant, which limits their influence
  • E - The influence of minorities such as the suffragettes is often decreased becuase they are seen as 'deviant' in the eyes of the majority
  • E - Members of the majority may avoid agreeing with the minorities such as the suffragettes because they do not want to be seen as being deviant themselves
  • L - As a result, the real influence of minorities is that they create the potential for social change rather than direct social change
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