Social Influence

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Types Of Conformity

Compliance - A superficial  and temporary type of conformity where we voluntary go along with the majority view, but privately disagree with. The change in behaviour only last as long as the group is monitoring us. Example: Recently Georgina friends have all decided they do not like crystal anymore, they have been ignoring her at lunch. Georgina still like crystal but she joins the group in ignoring her during lunch break 

Identification - A moderate type of conformity where we act in the same way with the group because we value it and want to be part of it. But we don't necessarily agree with everything the majority believes. Example: When Bethan was a girl guide, she wore her uniform proudly to all guiding events and behaved in accordance with girl guide guidelines and rules such as saluting guiding leaders. Since leaving the guides, however, Bethan no longer wears her uniform or indulges in Girl guide behaviour.

Internalisation- A deep type of conformity where we take on the majority view because we accept it as correct. It leads to permanent change in behaviour, even when the group is absent. Example: Leona has just joined a new school. As she walks into assembly for the first time she notices everyone is taking their coats and standing in front of their chairs.she quickly does the same.

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Explanations Of Conformity


 Information social influence (ISI) We agree with the opinion of the majority because we believe it is correct. We accept it because we want to be correct as well. This may lead to internalisation. It's a cognitive process because it is to do  with what you think. Likely to happen in situations where you are new to the situation  and where there's some ambiguity also where decision have to made quickly. 


Normantive social influence (NSI) We agree with the opinion of the majority because we want to be accepted, gain social approval and be liked. This may lead to compliance. Normantive is about 'norms'  what is normal or typical behaviour for a social group. It's an emotive process. Likely to occur in situations where you with strangers and feel concerned about rejection  or in front of friends.

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Evaluation Of ISI & NSI

Evaluation: Research support for ISI Lucas et al (2006) asked students to give answers to mathematical problems that were easy or more difficult. There was greater conformity to incorrect answers when they were difficult rather than the easier ones. This was most true for students who rated their mathematical skills as poor .

Individual difference - ISI does not affect everyone's behaviour in the same way Asch found out that  students were less conformist (28%) than other participants ( 37%).

Evaluation: Research support for NSI Asch (1951) found that many of his participants went along with a clearly wrong answer just because other people did. he asked why they did  this and they said they felt self conscious giving the correct answer  and they were afraid of disapproval. when they were asked to write the answer down conformity rates fell to 12.5%.

Individual differences - NSI does not affect everyone behaviour in the same way. For example people who are less concerned with being liked are less affected by NSI  than others who care what people think. Such people are described as nAffiliators. These are people who have greater need for affiliation - a need for being in a relationship with others. McGhee and Teevan (1967) found that students in high in need  of affiliation were more likely to conform.

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Conformity: Asch Research

Procedure: Solomon Asch tested conformity by showing participants two large cards at one time. One card was a standard line and the other card had three comparison lines. one of the three lines had the same length as the standard line. the other two were substantially different and clearly wrong. The participants were asked which of the three lines matched the standard line. 

The participants were 123 American male undergraduates. Each naive participant was tested with a group of 6-8 confederates, The naive participants is unaware that they are confederates. Each participant took part in 18 trials and on 12 critical trials the confederate gave the wrong answer .

Findings :The naive participant gave a wrong answer 36.8% of the time and 25% did not conform. so 75% conformed at least once.

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Conformity: Asch variations

Group size - Asch increased the size of the group by adding more confederates, thus increasing the size of the majority. Conformity increased with group size, but only up to a point, levelling off when the majority was greater than three.

unanimity - The extent to which all the members of a group agree. In Asch studies, the majority was unanimous when all the confederates selected the same comparison lines. This produced the greatest degree of conformity in the naive participants.

Task difficulty - its more difficult when it becomes harder to work out the correct answer. conformity increases because naive participants assume that the majority is more likely to be correct.

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Evaluation Of Asch Research

Weakness -Perrin and Spencer (1980) repeated Asch study with engineering students in the UK. only one student conformed in a total of 396 trials. It may be because they were more confident or that Asch did his study  in a conformist time. Society has changed people are less likely to conform today. Weakness because it means the Asch effect is not consistent across situations and may not be consistent across time and is not a fundamental feature of human behaviour.

Weakness - Participants knew they were in a research study and may simple have gone along with the demands of the situations .Also the 123 male participants did not resemble group that we are part of in everyday life.Weakness because it means that the findings do not generalise to everyday situations.

Weakness- Limited application of findings only men were tested by Asch other research suggest women might be more conformists because they are concerned more with social relationships . The men in the study were from the us where people are more concerned about themselves rather than their social group. shows that conformity levels are sometimes even higher than Asch found. His may only apply to American men because he didn't take gender or cultural differences into account.

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Conformity To Social Roles: Zimbardo Research

procedure- He set up a mock prison in the basement of the psychology department. They advertise for students willing to volunteer and those who were emotional stable were selected. The students were randomly assigned the roles of the guards or prisoners. The social roles of the prisoners and the guards were strictly divided. The prisoners daily routines were heavily regulated they were 16 rules they had to follow, which were enforced  by the guards who worked shifts there at a time. The guards had their own uniform. They were told they had complete power over the prisoners.

Findings- The guards took up their roles with enthusiasm. Their behaviour became a threat to the prisoners psychological and physical health, and the study was stopped after six days instead of the intended 14. Within two days the prisoners rebelled against their harsh treatment by the guards. After their rebellion was put down the prisoners became depressed one prisoner was released on the first day because he showed symptoms of psychological disturbance. Two more were released on the fourth day. One prisoner went on a hunger strike the guards attempted to force- feed him and then punished him by putting him in a dark closet the prisoners became more brutal and aggressive and some of them appeared to enjoy it.

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Conformity To Social Roles: Zimbardo Research conc

Conclusion -The simulation revealed the power of the situation to influence people's behaviour. Guards, prisoners and researchers all conformed to their roles within the prison. These roles were very easily taken on by the participants - even volunteers who came in to perform certain functions found themselves behaving as if they were in a prison rather than in a psychological study.


Strength- (control) They had control over variables such as selection of participants. Increases the internal validity of the study, so we can be more confident in drawing conclusions about the influence of roles on behaviour.

Weakness - (Lack of realism) Banuazizi and mohaavedi argued that the participants were merely play acting rather than genuinely conforming to a role. Performances were based on their stereotypes of how prisoners and guards are supposed to behave 

Weakness- (Role of dispositional influences) - Fromm accused Zimbardo of exaggerating the power of the situation to influence behaviour, and minimising the role of personality factors, suggest Zimbardo conclusion may be over-stated.

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Obedience: Milgram Research

Obedience - A form of social influence in which an individual follows a direct order. The person issuing the order is usually a figure of authority, who has the power to punish when obedient behaviour is not forthcoming.

Procedure-  40 male participants were recruited through newspaper adverts and flyers in the post. The advert said he was looking for participants for a study about memory. They were between the ages of 20 and 50 years and their jobs ranged from unskilled to professional. They were offered   $4.50 to take part. A confederate ' Mr Wallace' always ended up as the 'learner' while the true participant was the 'teacher.' There was also an experimenter dressed in a lab coat played by an actor. Participants were told they could leave the experiment at any time.

The learner was strapped in a chair in another room and wired with electrodes. The teacher was required to give the learner an increasing severe electric shock each time the learner made a mistake on a learning task. The shocks started at slight shock and went up to danger severe shock.  When the teacher got up to intense shock the learner gave no response and the experimenter said an absence of answer should be treated as a wrong answer. If the teacher felt unsure about carrying on the experimenter would used a sequence of  four standard prods for example " The experiment requires to continue." 

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Milgram's Findings


No participant stopped below 300 volts, 12.5 % stopped at 300 volts and 65% continued to 450 volts. observations also showed that the participants showed signs of extreme tension many of them were seen to sweat, stutter, tremble, bite their lips etc. Three even had uncontrollable seizures.

Prior to Milgram's study he asked 14 psychology students to predict what would happen and they said 3 % would go to 450 volts, so the findings were not expected. All participants were debriefed and assured that their behaviour was normal they were sent a follow up questionnaire and 84% said they were glad that their participated.

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Evaluation of Milgram's study

Orne and Holland ( 1968) argued that the participants probably guess that the shocks were not real in which case Milgram was not testing what he intended to test. Gina Perry's (2013) recent research confirms this. She listened to tapes of the study and reported that many of the participants expressed doubts about the shocks. However Sheridan and king ( 1972) conducted a similar study, where real shocks were given to a puppy. Despite the real shocks  54% male participates and 100% female participants gave real shocks to the puppy This  suggest that the effect in Milgram study was genuine.

The  experiment had good external validity because the central feature of this situation was the relationship between the authority figure and the participant. Milgram argued that the lab environment accurately reflected wider authority relationships in real life.

There have been other supporting replications of his research le jeu de la mort  a documentary of reality includes a replication of the study. the participants  believed  they were contestants in a new game show. They were paid to give fake electric shocks where told to by the presenter. 80% of them gave the maximum shock.

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Obedience: Social- Psychological Factors - Agentic

Adolf Eichmann had been in charge of the Nazi death camps and his defence was that he was only obeying orders. This led to Milgram to propose that obedience to destructive authority occurs because the person doesn't take responsibility instead they believe they are acting for someone else  that they are an 'agent'  which is someone who acts for or in place of another. They feel high anxiety when they realise what they doing is wrong but feel powerless to disobey

Autonomous state is the opposite to agentic state autonomy is  when the person is independent. So a person in an autonomous state  takes responsibility for their own actions they behave according to their own principles. The shift from autonomy to agent is called the agentic shift Milgram suggest that this occurs when a person perceives someone else as a figure of authority. This other person has greater power because of their position in social hierarchy.

Milgram observed that many of his participants spoke as if they wanted to quit but were unable to do so. Binding factors aspect of the situation that allow the person to ignore or minimise the damaging effect of their behaviour and therefore reduce the moral strain they are feeling. in Milgram's study they shifted the responsibility to the victim. This answer why an individual may remain in agentic state

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Evaluation Of Agentic State

Weakness: The agentic shift doesn't explain many of the research findings. For example it does not explain why some of the participants did not obey. Also it fails to explain Hofling et al study as the nurses should have shown signs of moral strain but they did not. This suggest that  agentic shift can only explain some occurrences of obedience.

Weakness: It also does not explain the Nazi behaviour. Mandel (1998) described one incident involving German reserve police battalion 101 where men obeyed the orders to shoot civilians in a small town in Poland. This was despite the fact that they did not have direct orders to do so.

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Legitimacy of Authority

Most societies are structured in a hierarchal way. This means that people in certain positions hold authority over the rest of us. For example parents, teachers, police etc. all have some kind of authority over us at times. The authority they have is legitimate in the sense that it agreed by society. Most of us accept that authority figures have to be allowed to exercise social power over others because this allows society to function smoothly.

One of the consequence of this legitimacy of authority is that some people are granted the power to punish others. most of us accept that the police and courts have the power to punish wrongdoers. so we are willing to give up our independence and to hand control of our behaviour over to people we trust to exercise their authority appropriately. we learn to acceptance of legitimate authority from childhood.

Destructive authority - problem arises when legitimate authority becomes destructive  for example people like Hitler Stalin and Pol Pot. Can use their legitimate power for destructive purposes, ordering people to  behave in way that is cruel. Destructive authority was very clearly shown in Milgram's study when the experimenter used prods to order the participants to behave in ways that went against their conscience.

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Evaluation of legitimacy of Authority

Cultural Differences

Useful for showing cultural differences in obedience. Kilham and Mann (1974) replicated Milgram's procedure in Australia and only 16% went all the way to the end. In Germany 85% went all the way. This shows authority is more like in some cultures and reflects the ways that different societies are structured. The findings increase the validity of the explanation 

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Obedience: Dispositional Explanations

The authoritarian personality

Theodor Adorno and his colleagues wanted to understand the anti Semitism of the holocaust. Their research led them to draw very different conclusions than Milgram had. On the basis of their research they came to believe that a high level of obedience was basically a psychological disorder, and tried to locate the cause of it in the personality of the individual.

Procedure - Adorno et al (1950) investigated the causes of the obedient personality in a study of more than 2000 middle class, white American and their unconscious aptitudes towards other racial groups. They developed several scales to investigate this, including the potential for fascism scale which is still used to measure authoritarian personality.

Findings- people with authoritarian leaning those who scored high on the f scale and other measure identified with strong people and were generally contemptuous of the weak. They were conscious of their own and others status, showing excessive respect to those of higher status. Adorno et al also found that authoritarian people had a cognitive style where there was no fuzziness between categories of people, with fixed and distinctive stereotypes about other groups. There was a strong positive correlation between authoritarianism and prejudice.

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authoritarian characteristics

Adorno concluded that people with an authoritarian personality have a tendency to be especially obedient to authority. They have an extreme respect for authority and submissiveness to it. They also show contempt for people they perceive as having inferior social status, and have highly conventional attitudes towards sex race and gender. They view society as going to the dogs and therefore believe we need strong and powerful leaders to enforce traditional values such as love of country religion and family. People with an authoritarian personality are inflexible in their outlook for them there are no grey areas everything is either right or wrong and they are very uncomfortable with uncertainty.

Origin of the authoritarian personality it was concluded that it formed in childhood as a result of harsh parenting. Typically the parenting style such as strict discipline an expectation of absolute loyalty, impossible high standards and severe criticism  of perceived failings. it is also characterised by conditional love. Adorno argued that these experiences create resentment and hostility in the child, but the child cannot express these feelings directly against their parents because of a well founded fear. so the fears displaced onto others who are perceived to be weaker in a process known as scapegoating.

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Evaluation of the authoritarian personality

Milgram and his assistant conducted interviews with a small sample of fully obedient participants, who scored highly on the f- scale, believing that there might be a link between obedience and authoritarian personality. however this link is merely a correlation between two measured variables. This makes it impossible to draw the conclusion that authoritarian personality causes obedience on the basis of this result. It may be that a third factor is involved.

 Any explanation of obedience in terms of individual personality will find it hard to explain obedient behaviour in the majority of a country's  population. for example in pre war Germany millions of people displayed obedient racist and anti Semitic behaviour. This was despite the fact that they must have differed in their personalities in all sorts of ways. it seems extremely unlikely that they could all posses an authoritarian personality. This is a limitation because it clear that an alternative explanation is more realistic that social identity explain obedience.

 It politically bias because the f scale measures the tendency towards an extreme form of right wing ideology. Christie and Jahoda argued that its politically bias. In fact extreme right and left wing ideologies have a lot in common. They both emphasise the importance of obedience in political authority . Limitation because it's not a comprehensive explanation

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Resistance to social influence

Social support 

Conformity - social support can help people to resist conformity. The pressure to conform can be reduced if there are other people present who are not conforming. This other person acts a model and enables the person to be free to follow their own conscience. However the effect of dissent id not long lasting.

Obedience - social support can also help people to resist obedience. The pressure to obey can be reduced if there is another person who is seen to disobey. In one of Milgram's variations the rate of obedience dropped from 65% to 10% when the genuine participant was joined by a disobedient confederate. The participant may not follow the disobedient persons behaviour but the point  is the other persons disobedience acts a model for the participant to copy that frees him to act from his own conscience.

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lcous of control

Locus of control refers to the sense we each have about what directs events in our lives its measured on a scale/continuum of high external to high internal. An individual who believes their life is determined by fate luck and external factors have high external and an individual who believes their life is determined by their own decisions and efforts has high internal.

resistance to social influence

A person with high internal  have a high level of personal control over their lives and behaviour and take person responsibility for their lives "I made it happen". They are more likely to take responsibility for their  own actions based on their decisions on their own beliefs. They are more achieve orientated and have  less need for approval from others helping them to resist pressure from others 

A person with high external have the belief that life is determined by external/environment factors such as luck "wrong place wrong time ". They are more likely to be influenced by others as they don't believe they exercise personal control over their lives.

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Evaluation of locus of control

A strength of the locus of control is that there's research evidence that supports the link between Loc and resistance to obedience .For example research conducted by Hollands (1967) repeated Milgram's  study and measured whether participants were internals or externals. he found that 37% of the internals did not continue to the highest shock level whereas 23% of the extreme did not continue. In other words internals showed greater resistance to authority. This research shows that internals showed greater resistance to authority. This supports locus of control as an explanation of resisting social influence because it shows validity of the loc and is good explanation.

 A weakness of the locus of control is that not all research supports the link between loc and resistance for example research conducted by twenge  et al (2004) analysed data from American obedience studies over a 40 year period from 1960 to 2002. This research shows that over this time span people have become more resistant to obedience but also more external. This contradicts locus of control as an explanation of resisting social influence because if resistance were linked to an internal locus of control, we would expect people to have become more internal.

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Minority influence

A form of social influence in which a minority of people sometimes just one person persuades others to adopt their beliefs, attitudes or behaviours. factors that allow minorities to be influential:

Consistency - creates interest from majority 

Synchronic  is agreement between people in the minority & Diachronic is consistent in their views over times. Such consistency makes other people start to rethink their own views. 

Commitment - minorities can engage in extreme activities to draw attention their view. If they take part in risky activities it shows commitment to their cause. The majority might then pay even more attention this is called the augmentation principle

Flexibility - consistency can be interpreted negatively repeating the same argument can be off putting minority needs to be prepared to adapt their point of view and accept reasonable arguments.

The process of change all of the three factors make people think about the issue it is the deeper processing which is important.

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Evaluation of minority influence

Strength - There's research to support consistency. Mascovici et al's study showed that a consistent minority opinion had greater effect on other people than an inconsistent opinion. Wood et al carried out a meta analysis and found that minorities who were consistent were most influential

Strength-There's research evidence to show that change to a minority position does involve deeper processing of ideas.  Martin et al found that people were less willing to change their opinions if they had listened to a minority group rather than a majority group. Minority message had been more deeply processed and had more of an enduring effect.

Weakness - There's artificial task used. Research is therefore far removed from how minorities attempt to change the behaviour of majorities in real life. Monscovici are lacking in external validity and are limited in what they can tell us about how minority influence works in real life situations.

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social change

when a whole society adopt a new belief or way of behaving which then becomes widely accepted as the norm. 

All social change has to start somewhere it starts with a small minoty. The factors can lead to social change through minority influence.

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Steps to how minority influence creates change

1 ) Drawing Attention - In the 1950s in American separation applied to all parts of America. In southern states of America places such schools and restaurants were exclusives to whites. The civil rights marches drew attention to the situation.

 2) Consistency- They were many marches and many rights activist displayed consistency of message and intent.

3) Deeper processing- This attention meant that many people who has simply accepted the status quo begin to think about the unjustness of it .

4) The augmentation principle- Many of them risked their lives for example freedom riders  many of them were beaten.

 5) Snowball effect- Civil rights activist such a mlk continued to press for changes that gradually got the attention of the us government  in 1964 the civil rights acts was passed.

6 ) Social cryptomenesia- People have a memory that change has occurred but don't remember how it happened.

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