Social Influence Revision Cards Complete


1 - Types of Conformity

--> Kelman (1958) suggested that there are 3 types of conformity:

  • IDENTIFICATION - We conform to opinions/behaviour of a group because there is something about that group that we value. We identify with the group, so we want to be part of it. We may publicly change our opinions/behvaiour to achieve this goal, even if we don't privately agree.
  • INTERNALISATION - When a person genuinely accepts the group norms. Results in a private & public change of opinions/behaviour. This change is likely to be permanent because attitudes have been internalised. Change in opinions/behaviour persists even in the absence of other group members.
  • COMPLIANCE - Simply 'going along with others' in public, but privately not changing personal opinions and behaviour. Results in only a superficial change. Also means that a particular behaviour or opinion stops as soon as group pressure stops.
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2 - Explanations for Conformity

--> Deutsch & Gerard (1955) developed a two-process theory, arguing that there are two main reasons people conform - based on 2 central human needs : the need to be right (ISI) and the need to be liked (NSI).


  • Who has the better information - you or the rest of the group. Often we are uncertain about what behaviours or beliefs are right or wrong. (eg may not know the answer to a qu in class, but if most of the class agrees on 1 answer, you accept that answer as you feel they are likely to be right).
  • We follow the behaviour of the group/majority because people want to be right. ISI = cognitive process as it is to do with what you think.
  • Most likely to happen: new situations, ambiguous situations, crisis situations, when someone is an expert


  • Is about norms - what is 'normal' or typical behaviour for a social group. Norms regulate the behaviour of groups and individuals so we pay attention to them as we don't want to appear foolish & prefer to gain social approval than rejection. NSI = emotional rather than cognitive.
  • Most likely to happen: situations with strangers where you feel concerned about rejection, people you know (because we are most concerned about the social approval of our friends), stressful situations
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3 - Evaluation of Types & Explanations of Conformi

(+) Research support for ISI

  • When Asch increased the difficulty of his task, conformity increased - we look to others and assume they're right. This is predicted by ISI.

(-) Individual differences in NSI

  • Research shows NSI doesn't affect everyone's behaviour in the same way.
  • nAffiliators - people who are concerned with being liked are more affected by NSI those who don't care about being liked.  These people have need for being in a relationship with others.
  • Shows that the desire to be liked underlies conformity for some people more than others.

(-) ISI and NSI work together

  • Idea of process is that you are either NSI or ISI.
  • Asch: With dissenter, conformity is reduced as it reduces the power of NSI (dissenter provides social support) and ISI (alternative source of information)
  • Not always possible to be sure whether NSI or ISI is at work - in lab studies, but even truer in real-life conformity situations outside the lab.
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4 - Conformity: Asch's Research (1951)


  • Asked them to say which line was the same as the standardised line. Participants = male american undergraduates. 6 confederates, 1 participant.
  • 1st few trials = confederates gave right answers, then started making errors (same wrong answer). Did 18 trials, 12 of which were 'critical trials', where the confeds gave wrong answer.


  • Participant gave te wrong answer 36.8% of the time.
  • 25% of the participants did not conform on any trials, so 75% conformed at least once.
  • Asch effect - term used to describe this result - extent to which participants conform even when the situation is unambiguous.
  • When ppts were interviewed afterwards, most said they conformed to avoid rejection (NSI)
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5 - Asch's Variations


  • 3 confeds giving wrong answer- conformity rose to 31.8%.
  • Addition of further confeds made little difference - no need for majority of more than 3.


  • Dissenter disagreed with others - reduced conformity
  • Enabled ppt to behave more independently
  • Suggests influence of majority depends to some extent on the group being unanimous.


  • Made it harder - more similar in length = increased conformity
  • ISI plays a greater role when the task is harder, as the situation is more ambiguous, so we look to others for guidance.
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6 - Evaluation of Asch's Research

(-) Not same for all/ Child of its time

  • Perrin & Spencer (1980) repeated the study and found one student conformed out of 396 trials.
  • 1950s (when Asch did his experiement) may have been a more conformist time in America, therefore it made sense to conform to established soical norms.
  • Asch effect is not consistent across situations & may not be consistent across time.

(-) Artificial situation & task

  • Knew they were in a research study & may have gone along with the situation (demand characteristics)
  • The groups they were in did not resemble the groups that we are part of in everyday life - can't be generalised to everyday situations.

(-) Limited application of findings

  • Only men tested, women may be more conformist, possibly because they were more concerned about social relationships.
  • Men were only from the USA (individualist culture). Collectivist cultures had higher rates of conformity (eg - China). Ethnocentrism.
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7 - Stanford Prison Experiment - Zimbardo (1960)

--> Conformity to social roles.


  • Basement of psychology department - Stanford University. Students were randomly assigned to prisoners or guards.
  • Prisoners were arrested in their homes - realism as blindfolded, ***** searched, given uniform and a number.
  • Social roles strictly divided - 16 rules prisoners had to follow - they were only called by their no.
  • Guards - had a wooden club, handcuffs, keys & had complete power.


  • Guards behaviour became a threat to prisoner's psychological & physical health - study stopped after 6 days instead of 14.
  • Prisoners rebelled within 2 days. Guards harrassed constantly. After rebellion, prisoners became subdued, depressed & anxious. 1 was released on the first day, 2 released on 4th due to symptoms of psychological disturbance.
  • 1 went on a hunger strike - guards punished him by putting him in the 'hole' (a dark closet).
  • Therefore, they conformed to roles & behaved like they were in an actual prison.
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8 - Evaluation of Zimbardo

(+) Some control

  • Eg over the selection of his participants - emotionally stable individuals were chosen & randomly assigned - there were no individual personality differences
  • Increases the internal validity 

(-) Lack of realism

  • Merely play acting rather than conforming? Based on stereotypes (eg - one guard based his role on a brutal character from the film 'Cool Hand Luke')
  • However, quantitative data was gathered during, which showed that 90% of the prisoners' conversations were about prison life = real to the participants

(-) Role of dispositional influences

  • May have minimised the role of personality factors - exaggerated the power of the situation, as only 1/3 of the guards behaved brutally, 1/3 applied the rules fairly, and 1/3 tried to help & support the prisoners (eg - by offering them cigarettes & reinstating privileges)
  • His conclusion that ppts conformed to social roles = may be over-stated.
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9 - Obedience: Milgram (1963)

--> Wanted to know why the Germans had followed Hitler's orders & slaughtered >10 mil jews.


  • 40 20-50 yr old male ppts using newspaper ad - said he was looking for ppts for a study about memory. Offered $4.50 to take part.
  • When they arrived, a confederate 'Mr Wallace' always ended up as the 'learner' while the true ppt was the 'teacher', and an 'experimenter' (another confed) dressed in a lab coat, played by an actor. Ppts were told they could leave at any time.
  • Learner was strapped in a chair in another room & wired with electrodes. Teacher had to give learner an increasingly severe electric shock each time the learner made a mistake on the learning task (learning word pairs). Shock level started at 15 (slight shock) & rose through 30 levels to 450V (danger-severe shock). When the teacher got to 300V, the learner pounded on the wall then gave no response to the next qu. 
  • After 315V, learner pounded again, but after than there was no further response from learner.
  • When teacher turned to experimenter for guidance, E gave a standard instruction 'An absence of response should be treated as a wrong answer'. If T felt unsure about continuing, the E used a sequence of 4 standard prods:
  • Prod 1 - 'Please continue' or 'Please go on'
  • Prod 2 - 'The experiment requires that you continue'
  • Prod 3 - 'It is absolutely essential that you continue'
  • Prod 4 - 'You have no other choice, you must go on'
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10 - Obedience: Milgram's Findings (1963)


  • No ppts stopped below 300V
  • 12.5% (5 ppts) stopped at 300V (intense shock)
  • 65% continued to the highest level of 450V
  • Qualitative data were also collected, such as observations that the ppts showed signs of extreme tension; many of them were seen to 'sweat, tremble, stutter, bite their lips, groan, dig their fingernails into their hands'. 3 had 'full-blown uncontrollable seizures'
  • Before the study, Milgram asked 14 psychology students to predict the participants' behaviour - they estimated that no more than 3% of the ppts would continue to 450V.
  • All ppts were debriefed & assured that their behaviour was entirely normal. 
  • Also sent a follow-up questionnaire - 84% were glad to have participated.
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11 - Evaluation of Milgram's Research

(+) Good external validity

  • Relationship between the authority figure (experimenter) & ppt - M argued that the lab environment accurately reflected wider authority relationships in real life.  Supported by Hofling et al. (1966) studied nurses & doctors on a hospital ward & found high levels of obedience to unjustified demands (21/22 nurses obeyed) = can be generalised.

(+) Supporting replication  

  • Has been replicated in a documentary about reality TV. Ppts believed they were contenstants for a new game show - paid to give (fake) electric shocks. 80% gave maximum shock of 460V to 'unconscious' man. Behaviour = same as those in Milgrams.

(-) Low internal validity

  • Orne & Holland (1968) argued that ppts behaved the way they did because they didn't really believe in the set up - guessed it wasn't real electric shocks - M therefore was not testing what he wanted to test = low internal validity. 
  • Perry (2013) listened to the tapes of Milgram's ppts and heard that many expressed doubts. 
  • Milgram reported that 70% of his ppts said they believed the shocks were genuine. 

(-) Ethical issues - deceived ppts - saying role allocation was random & their trust was betrayed after thinking the shocks were real.

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12 - Obedience: Situational Variables (Milgram)

--> Wanted to see if these situational variables would create greater or lesser obedience.


  • Original: teacher & learner were in adjoining rooms, so teacher could hear learner but not see him. 1 - In this variation = were in the same room - obedience rate dropped from 65%-40%. 
  • 2 - Touch proximity condition - teacher had to force learner's hand onto electroshock plate when he refused to answer a question - obedience dropped to 30%.
  • 3 - Experimenter left room & gave teacher instructions by telephone. Obedience = 20.5%. Ppts also frequently pretended to give shocks/gave weaker ones than ordered to.


Run-down building rather than the prestigious university of Yale. In this situation, the experimenter had less authority - obedience fell to 47.5% from 65%.


  • Original: wore a grey labcoat as a symbol of his authority. Variation - experimenter was called away because of an inconvenient phone call at the start of the procedure. Role of experimenter was taken overy by an 'ordinary member of the public' (confederate) in everyday clothes instead of a lab coat. Obedience dropped to 20%.
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13 - Evaluation of Milgram's Variations

(+) Research support - In a field experiment in NYC, Bickman (1974) had 3 confeds dress in 3 different outfits - jacket and tie, milkman's outfit & security guard's uniform. Confeds stood in the street & asked people to perform tasks such as picking up litter or giving the confed a coin for the parking meter. People were 2x as likely to obey the assisant dressed as a security guard than the one dressed in jacket & tie. Supports M's conc that a uniform conveys the authority of its wearer = produces obedience.

(+) Cross-cultural replications

  • Findings have been replicated in other cultures. Findings of cross-cultural reserach have been generally supportive of M. Miranda et al (1981) found an obedience rate of over 90% amongst Spanish students = M's results aren't just limited to American males. 
  • However, these have only been found in Western, developed societies (eg - Spain & Australia) so would be premature to conclude this for people everywhere.

(-) Lack of internal validity

  • Orne & Holland = many of ppts worked out that procedure was faked. Even more likely that ppts in M's variations realised this due to the extra manipulation. A good eg is the variation where the experimenter is replaced by a member of the public.
  • Limitation as it is unclear whether the results are due to the operation of obedience or because the ppts saw through the deception & acted accordingly.
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14 - Obedience: Social-Psychological factors

AGENTIC STATE - Milgram proposed that obedience to destructive authority occurs because a person does not take responsibility. Instead, they believe they are acting for someone else - they are an agent. Agents feel high anxiety (moral strain) when they realise what they are doing is wrong, but feel powerless to disobey. 


  • Opposite of being in an agentic state is an autonomous state. 'Autonomy' means to be independent or free - therefore these people are free to behave according to their own principles and therefore feels a sense of responsibility for their own actions.
  • Shift from autonomy to agency = agentic shift. Milgram (1974) suggested this occurs when a person perceives someone else as a figure of authority - this person has greater power due to their position of social hierarchy.


  • Milgram raised the qu of why the individual remains in this agentic state. M had observed that pany of his ppts spoke as if they wanted to quit but seemed unable to do so. 
  • Binding factors - aspects of the situation that allow the person to ignore/minimise the damaging effect of their behaviour and thus reduce the 'moral stain' they are feeling.
  • M proposed a no. of strategies that the individual uses, eg - shifting repsponsibility to the victim ('he was foolish to volunteer') or denying the damage they were doing to the victims.
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15 - Evaluation of Agentic State

(+) Research Support

  • Blass & Schmitt (2001) showed a film of M's study to students & asked them to identify who they felt was responsible for the harm to the learner. The students blamed the experimenter rather than the ppt. 
  • The students also indicated that the responsibility was due to legitimate authority (experimenter was top of the hierarchy & therefore had legitimate authority) but also due to expert authority (he was a scientist).
  • Therefore, they recognised legitimate authority as the cause of obedience, supporting this explanation.

(-) A limited explanation

  • The agentic shift doesn't explain many of the research findings. Eg - it doesn't explain why some of the ppts did not obey (humans are social animals & involved in social hierarchies & therefore should all obey).
  • The agentic shift explanation also doesn't explain the findings from Hofling et al.'s study - the agentic shift predicts that, as the nurses handed over responsibility to the doctor, they should have shown levels of anxiety similar to M's ppts, as they understood their role in the destructive process - this wasn't the case. Suggests Agentic shift can only account for some situations of obedience.
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16 - Obedience: Social-Psychological factors 2


  • An explanation for obedience which suggests that we are more likely to obey people who we perceive to have authority over us. This authority is justified (legitimate) by the individual's position of power within a social hierarchy.
  • One of the consequences 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 - we are willing to give up some of our independence to hand control of our behaviour over to people we trust to exercise their authority appropriately. 
  • We learn acceptance of legitimate authority form childhood, from parents initially & then teachers and adults.


  • Problems arise when legitimate authority becomes destructive. History has too often shown that charismatic and powerful leaders can use their legitimate powers for destructive purposes, ordering people to behave in ways that are callous, cruel, stupid & dangerous.
  • Destructive authority was very clearly on shown in Milgram's study, when the experimenter used prods to order ppts to behave in ways that went against their consciences.
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17 - Evaluation of Legitimacy of authority

(+) Cultural Differences

  • Many studies show that countries differ in the degree to which people are traditionally obedience to authority. Eg - Kilham & Mann (1974) replicated M's procedure in Australia and found that only 16% of their ppts went all the way to the top of the voltage scale.
  • On the other hand, Mantell (1971) found a very different figure for German ppts - 85%.
  • Shows that in some cultures, authority is more likely to be accepted as legitimate and entitled to demand obedience from individuals. 
  • This reflects the ways that different societies are structured and how children are raised to perceive authority figures. Such as supportive findings from cross-cultural research increase the validity of the explanation. 

(+) Real-life crimes of obedience

  • Legitimacy of authority can help explain how obedience can lead to real-life war crimes.
  • Kelman & Hamilton (1989) argue that the My Lai massacre (Vietnam, 1968) can be understood in terms of the power hierarchy of the US army.
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18 - The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno)

--> Wanted to understand the anti-semitism of the Holocaust. Had v different conclusions to Milgram - believed that a high level of obedience was basically a psychological disorder & tired to locate the causes of it in the personality of the individual.


  • Adorno et al (1950) investigated the causes of the obedient personality in a study of more than 2000 middle-class, white Americans & their unconscious attitude towards other racial groups.
  • Developed scales to investigate this - inc the potential for fascism scale (F-scale) which is used to measure authoritarian personality.
  • Eg ''obedience & respsect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn"


  • People with authoritarian learnings (high on F-scale) identified with 'strong' people & were generally contemptuous of the 'weak'. They were v conscious of their own & other's status, showing excessive respect, deference & servility to 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 & distinctive stereotypes about other groups. Strong + correlation between authoritarianism & uncertainty.
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19 - Authoritarian characteristics

  • Adorno concluded that people with an authoritarian personality have a tendency to be obedient to authority.
  • They have extreme respect for authority & submissiveness to it.
  • Also show contempt for people they perceive as having inferior social staus, & have highly conventional attitudes towards sex, race and gender.
  • 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 comfortable with uncertainty.

--> Donald Trump supporters??

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20 - Origin of the authoritarian personality

  • Adorno et al concluded that authoritarian personality type formed in childhood, as a result of harsh parenting.
  • Typically, the parenting style identified by Adorno features extremely strict discipline, an expectation of absolute loyalty, impossibly high standards & severe criticism of perceived failings.
  • It is also characterised by conditional love - that is, the parents' love & affection for their child depends entirely on how he/she behaves.
  • Adorno argued that these experiences create resentment & hostility in the child, but the child cannot express these feelings directly against their parents because of a well-founded fear of reprisals.
  • So the fears are displaced onto others who are perceived to be weaker = scapegoating.
  • This explains a central trait of obedience to higher authority, which is a dislike/hatred for people considered to be socially inferior or who belong to other social groups
  • This is a psychodynamic explanation.
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21 - Evaluation of Dispositional factors affecting

  • (+) Research support
  • Milgram conducted interviews with a small sample of fully obedient ppts, who scored highly on the F-scale, believing that there might be link between obedience & authoritarian personality.
  • However, this link is just a correlation between 2 measured variables, therefore it's impossible to draw the conlcusion that authoritarian personality causes obedience on the basis of this result. A 3rd factor may be involved - perhaps both obedience and AP are associated with a lower level of education, eg - are not directly linked with each other at all.
  • (-) Limited explanation
  • Any explanation of obedience in terms of individuals personality will find it hard to explain obedient behaviour in the majority of a country's population - seems unlikely that all Hitler supporters all possessed an authoritarian personality. Limitation of Adorno's theory as it is clear that an alternative explanation is much more realistic - that social identity explains obedience.
  • (-) Politcal bias
  • F-scale measures the tendency towards an extreme form of right-wing ideology - Christie & Jahoda (1954) argued that this is a politically biased interpretation of authoritarian personality. They point out the reality of left-wing authoritarianism in the shape.
  • Left & right wing ideologies have much in common - both emphasise the importance of complete obedience to legitimate political authority.
  • Limitation as it is not a comprehensive dispositional explanation that can account for obedience to authority across the whole political spectrum.
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22 - Resistance to Social Influence - Social Suppo


  • 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. Asch - dissenter doesn't have to be giving the 'right' answer, but simply the fact that someone else is not following the majoirty appears to enable a person to be free to follow their own conscience = person is 'model'
  • However, Asch showed that if this 'non-conforming' person starts conforming again, so does the naive ppt = effect of dissent is not long lasting.


  • Social support can help people to resist obedience.
  • Pressure to obey can be redueced if there is another person who disobeys.
  • Milgram's variation - the rate of obedience dropped from 65% to 10% when the genuine ppt was joined by a disobedient confederate.
  • The ppt may not follow the dissenter's behaviour but shows that other person's disobedience acts as a 'model' for the ppt to copy that frees him to act from his own conscience.
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23 - Evaluation of Social Support

(+) Research support - resistance to conformity

  • Research evidence supports the role of dissenting peers in resisting conformity.
  • Eg - Allen & Levine (1971) found that conformity decreased when there was one dissenter in an Asch-type study. This occurred even if the dissenter wore thick glasses and said he had difficulty with his vision.
  • Supports view that resistance is not just motivated by following what someone else says but it enables someone to be free of the pressure from the group.

(+) Research support - resistance to obedience

  • There is research evidence that supports the role of dissenting peers in resisting obedience.
  • Gamson et al (1982) found higher levels of resistance in their study than Milgram.
  • This was probably because the ppts in G's study were in groups - 29/33 groups of ppts (88%) rebelled. Shows that peer support is linked to greater resistance.
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24 - Resistance to social influence - Locus of Con

LOCUS OF CONTROL - Rotter (1966). It is a concept concerned with internal control vs external control. 

  • Some people (internals) believe that the things that happen to them are largely controlled by themselves. Eg - do well in an exam = you worked hard, but if didn't do well it it = you didn't work hard. 
  • Other people (externals) believe that things happen without their own control. If did well in an exam = had a good textbook, if failed = blame on textbook or bad luck due to hard questions.


People differ in the way they explain their successes & failures but isn't a matter of being internal or external. There is a continuum of high internal LOC at one end & high external LOC at the other end, with low internal & low external lying in between.


  • Have an internal LOC = more likely to be able to resist pressures to conform/obey. Person takes personal responsibility for their actions (+/-) then they are more likely to base their decisions on their own beliefs & resist pressures from others.
  • People with a high internal LOC tend to be more self-confident, more achievement-orientated, more intelligent & less need for social approval = greater resitance to SI.
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25 - Evaluation of Locus of Control

(+) Research support

  • Supports link between LOC and resistance to obedience.
  • Holland (1967) repeated M's baseline study & measured whether ppts were internals/externals.
  • Found that 37% of internals did not continue to the highest shocks, whereas only 23% of externals did not continue = internals showed greater resitance to authority.
  • Research support of this nature increases validity of the LOC explanation & our confidence that it can explain resistance.

(-) Contradictory research

  • Twenge et al (2004) analysed data from American obedience studies over a 40-year period form (1960-2002). Data showed that people have become more resistant to obedience but also more external.
  • If resistance were linked to LOC, we would expect people to have become more internal.
  • This challenges link between internal LOC and increasing resistant behaviour. However, it is possible that the results are due to a changing society where many things are out of personal control.
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26 - Minority Influence

  • --> Refers to situations where one person/small group of people influences the beliefs & behaviour of other people. This is distinct from conformity where the majority is doing the influencing (conformity is sometimes called majority influence).
  • In both cases, the people being influenced may be just one person, small group or large group. Minority is most likely to lead to internalisation (both public behaviour & private beliefs are changed by the process).
  • Moscovici first studied this process in his 'blue side, green side' study (see card      ) which may have drawn attention to the main processes in minority influence.


  • Over time, the consistency in the minority's views increases the amount of interest from other people. This consistency might be agreement between people in the minority (synchronic consistency - all saying the same thing) and/or consistency over time (diachronic consistency - all been saying the same thing for some time)
  • Such consistency makes others start to rethink their own views - 'maybe they've got a point if they all think this way'
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27 - Minority influence cont.


  • Sometimes minorities engage in quite extreme activities to draw attention to their views. It is important that these extreme activities are at some risk to the minority because this demonstrates commitment to the cause.
  • Majority group members then pay even more attention = augmentation principle.


  • Nemeth (1986) argued that consistency is not the only important factor in minority influence because it can be interpreted negatively. Being extremely consistent & repeating same arguments & behaviours again can be seen as rigid, unbending, dogmatic & inflexible.
  • Is off-putting to the majority & unlikely to result in conversions to the minority position. Members of minority need to be prepared to adapt their POV & accept reasonable & valid counter-arguments = key to balance consitency & flexibility.THE PROCESS OF CHANGE
  • All 3 of these factors make people think about topic - if you hear something which agrees with what you already believe = doesn't make you stop & think. If you hear something new, then might think about it if source of this view is consistent & passionate. Deeper processing = important in process of conversion to different minority viewpoint.
  • Increasing no.s of people switch from majority to minority position = converted. More this happens = faster rate of conversion = snowball effect & gradually minority view has become the majority view & change has occurred.


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28 - Study: The blue-green slides

--> Moscovici et al (1969)

  • Demonstrated minority influence in a study where a group of 6 people was asked to view a set of 36 blue-coloured slides that varied in intensity and then state whether the slides were blue or green.
  • In each group there were 2 confederates who consistenlty said the slides were green on 2/3's of the trails.
  • The ppts gave the same wrong answer on 8.42% of trials, 32% gave the same answer as the minority on at least one trial.
  • A second group of ppts was exposed to an inconsistent minority and agreement fell to 1.25%.
  • A 3rd control group - there were no confederates and all the ppts had to do was identify the colour of each slide. They got this wrong on just 0.25% of the trials.
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29 - Evaluation of minority influence

  • (+) Research support for consistency
  • Evidence that demonstrates the importance of consistency. Moscovici et al's study showed that a consistent minorty opinion had a greater effect on other people than an inconsistent opinion. Wood et al (1994) carried out a meta-analysis of almost 100 similar studies & found that minorities who were seen as being consistent were more influential = consistency is a major factor in minority influence.
  • (+) Research support for depth of thought
  • Evidence to show that change to a minority positino does involve deeper processing of ideas.
  • Martin et al (2003) gave ppts a message supporting a particular viewpoint & measured their support. One group then heard a minority group agree with the initial view while another group heard this from a majority one.
  • Ppts were finally exposed to a conflicting view & attitudes were measured again. Martin et al found that people were less willing to change their opinions if they had listened to a minority one rather than if they were shared with a majority.
  • Suggests that the minority message had been more deeply processed & had a more enduring effect = supporting argument about how MI process works.
  • (-) Artificial tasks
  • Identifying the colour of a slide is as artificial as Asch's line judgement task. Research is far removed from how minorities attempt to change the behaviour of majorities irl. Eg - jury cases are however much more important & could be a life or death situation = findings lack external validity & are limited in what they can tell us about MI in real-life situations.
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30 - Social Influence & Social Change

SOCIAL CHANGE - Special role of minority influence

  • Steps how minority influence creates social change, eg - with African-American civil rights movement in the 1950s/60s.
  • 1) Drawing attention - through social proof. In 1950s America, black separatino applied to all parts of USA - there were black neighbourhoods & white only places. Civil rights marches of this period drew attention to the situation by providing social proof of the problem.
  • 2) Consistency - There were many marches & many people taking part. Even though they were a minority of the American population, the civil rights activists displayed consistency of message & intent.
  • 3) Deeper processing of the issue - this attention meant that many people who had accepted the status quo began to think about the unjustness of it.
  • 4) The augmentation principle - Many people risked their lives. Eg - the 'freedom riders' were mixed ratial groups who got on buses in the south to challenge the fact that black people had to sit separately on buses. Many freedom riders were beaten & there were incidents of mob violence. 
  • 5) The snowball effect - Civil rights activists (eg - Martin Luther King) continued to press for changes that gradually got the attention of the US government. In 1964 the US Civil Rights Act was passed, which prohibited discrimination. This represented a change from minority to majoirty support for civil rights.
  • 6) Social cryptomnesia - People have a memory that change has occurred but don't remember how it happened. 
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31 - Social Change cont.


  • Asch highlighted the importance of dissent in one of his variations, which one confederate gave correct answers throughout the procedure. This broke the power of the majority encouraging others to dissent. Such dissent has the potential to lead to social change.
  • Environmental & health campaigns increasingly exploit conformity processes by appealing to NSI. They do this by providing info about what other people are doing - eg reducing litter by putting normative messages on little bins 'bin it, others do'. 
  • Therefore, social change is encouraged by drawing attention to what the majority are doing.


  • Milgram's reserach demonstrates the importance of disobedient role models. 
  • In the variation where a confederate teacher refuses to give shocks to the learner, the rate of obedience in the ppts plummeted. 
  • Zimbardo (2007) suggested that obedience can be used to create social change through the process of gradual commitment. Once a small instruction is obeyed, it becomes much more difficult to resist a bigger one. People drift into a new kind of behaviour. 
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32 - Evaluation of Social Change

  • (+) Research support for normative influences
  • Nolan et al (2008) investigated whether SI processes led to a reduction in energy consumption in a community. They hung messages on front doors of houses in San Diego every week for one month. Key message = most residents were trying to reduce their energy usage. Control, some residents had a different message that just asked them to save energy but made no reference to other people's behaviour.
  • Found significant decreases in E usage in 1st group = Shows conformity can lead to SC through the operation of NSI.
  • (-) Minority influence is only indirectly effective
  • Social changes happen slowly when they happen. Eg - it has taken decades for attitudes against drink-driving and smoking to shift. Nemeth (1986) argues that the effects of minority are likely to be mostly indirect and delayed. They are indirect as the majority is influenced on matters only related to the issue at hand, not the central issue. Are delayed as effects may not be seen for some time. Limitation as it shows that MI's effects are fragile & its role in SI is limited.
  • (-) Role of deeper processing
  • Moscovici's conversion explanation of MI argues that minority & majority influence involve different cognitive processes. Minority I causes individuals to think more deeply about an issue than majority I (conformity). Mackie *1987) disagrees & presents evidence that it is majority I that may create deeper processing if you do not share their views. This is because we like to believe that other people share their views.
  • This is because we like to believe that other people share our views and think in the same ways as us. When we find that a majority believes something different, then we are forced to think long & hard about their arguements & reasoning. This means that a central element of the process of MI has been challenged & may be incorrect - doubting validity. 
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33 - Key Terms 1

CONFORMITY - A change in a person's behaviour or opinions as a result of real or imagined pressure from a person/group of people.

INTERNALISATION - A deep type of conformity where we take on the majority view because we accept it as correct. It leads to a far-reaching and permanent change in behaviour, even when the group is absent.

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.

COMPLIANCE - A superficial and temporary type of conformity where we outwardly go along with the majority view, but privately disagree with it. The change in our behaviour only lasts as long as the group is monitoring. 

INFORMATIONAL SOCIAL INFLUENCE (ISI) -  An explanation of conformity that says we agree with the opinion of the majority because we believe it is correct. We accept it because we want to be correct asa well. May lead to internalisation.

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34 - Key Terms 2

NORMATIVE SOCIAL INFLUENCE (NSI) - An explanation of conformity that says we agree with the opinion of the majority because we want to be accepted, gain social approval and be liked. May lead to compliance.

GROUP SIZE - Asch increased the size of the group by adding more confederates, thus increasing the size of the majority. Conformity is increased with group size, but only up to a point, levelling off when the majority was greater than 3.

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

TASK DIFFICULTY - Asch's line judging task is more difficult when it becomes harder to work out the correct answer. Conformity increases because naive ppts assume that the majority is more likely to be right.

SOCIAL ROLES - The 'parts' people play as members of various social groups. Everyday examples include parent, child, student, etc. These are accompanied by expectations we and others have of what is appropriate behaviour in each role. 

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35 - Key Terms 3

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.

SITUATIONAL VARIABLES - In his research, Milgram identified several factors that he believed influenced the level of obedience shown by ppts. They are all related to the external circumstances rather than to the personalities of the people involved - includes:

PROXIMITY - The physical closeness/distance of an authority figure to the person they are giving an order to. Refers to the physical closeness of the teacher to the learner in M's study.

LOCATION - The place where an order is issued. The relevant fractor that influences obedience is the status or prestige associated with the location.

UNIFORM - People in positions of authority often have a specific outfit that is symbolic of their authority, for example police officers and judges. This indicates to the rest of us who is entitled to expect our obedience.

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36 - Key Terms 4

AGENTIC STATE - A mental state where we feel no personal responsibility for our behaviour because we believe ourselves to be acting for an authority figure, ie - as their agent. Frees us from the demands of our consciences & allows us to obey even a destructive authority figure.

LEGITIMACY OF AUTHORITY - An explanation for obedience which suggests that we are more likely to obey people who we perceive to have authority over us. This authority is justified (legitimate) by the individual's position of power within a social hierarchy.

DISPOSITIONAL EXPLANATION - Any explanation of behaviour that highlights the importance of the individual's personality (ie - their disposition). Such explanations are often contrasted with situational explanations.

AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY - A type of personality that Adorno argued was especially susceptible to obeying people in authority. Such individuals are also thought to be submissive to those of higher status & dismissive of inferiors.

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37 - Key Terms 5

RESISTANCE TO SOCIAL INFLUENCE - Ability of people to withstand the social pressure to conform to the majority or to obey authority. This ability to withstand social pressure is influenced by both situational & dispositional factors.

SOCIAL SUPPORT - The presence of people who resist pressures to conform or obey can help others to do the same. These people act as models to show others that resistance to social influence is possible.

LOCUS OF CONTROL (LOC) - Refers to the sense we each have about what directs events in our lives. Internals believe they are mostly responsible for what happens to them. Externals believe it is mainly a matter of luck or other outside forces. 

MINORITY INFLUENCE - A form of SI in which a minority of people persuade others to adopt their beliefs, attiutudes or behaviours. Leads to internalisation or conversion, in which private attitudes are changed as well as public behaviours.

CONSISTENCY - MI is most effective if the minority keeps the same beliefs, both over time and between all the individuals that form the minority. It's effective because it draws attention to the minority view.

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38 - Key Terms 6

COMMITMENT - MI is more powerful if the minority demonstrates dedication to their position, for example, by making personal sacrifices. This is effective because it shows the minority is not acting out of self-interest.

FLEXIBILITY - Relentless consistency could be counter-productive if it is seen by the majority as unbending and reasonable. Therefore, MI is more effective if the minority show flexibility by accepting the possibility of compromise.

SOCIAL INFLUENCE - The process by which individuals and groups change each other's attitudes and behaviours. Includes conformity, obedience & minority influence.

SOCIAL CHANGE - Occurs when whole societies, rather than just individuals, adopt new attitudes, beliefs and ways of doing things. Examples include accepting that the Earth orbits the Sun, women's suffrage, gay rights & environmental issues. 

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39 - Practice Questions 1

  • 1)  One type of conformity is internalisation. Explain what psychologists mean by internalisation in this context. [2 marks]
  • 2)  Explain what is meant by the term informational social influence in relation to conformity. [2 marks]
  • 3)  Outline normative social influence as an explanatino for conformity. [4 marks]
  • 4)  Describe & evaluate ISI & NSI as explanations for conformity. [12 marks]
  • 5)  One variable that affects conformity is unanimity. Explain what is meant by unanimity in relation to conformity. [2 marks]
  • 6)  Apart from unanimity, identify 2 variables that have been shown to affect conformity. Briefly outline how each of these variables affects conformity. [6 marks]
  • 7)  Describe Asch's study of conformity. Include details of what he did & found. [6 marks]
  • 8)  Describe & evaluate Asch's research into conformity. [12 marks]
  • 9)  Explain what is meant by the term social roles. Use an example to explain. [2 marks]
  • 10)  Outline Zimbardo's research into conformity to social roles. Refer to what the participants did and what was found. [6 marks]
  • 11)  Discuss research into conformity to social roles. [12 marks]
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40 - Practice Questions 2

  • 12)  Explain what is meant by obedience. [2 marks]
  • 13)  Describe one study into obedience. Include what the ppts had to do in the study & what was found. [6 marks]
  • 14)  Describe & evaluate Milgram's research into obedience. [12 marks]
  • 15) Identify 2 of the situational variables affecting obedience to authority, used by Milgram, and explain how each of them affects obedience. [6 marks]
  • 16)  Describe one study that demonstrated how proximity might be a factor in obedient behaviour. Include details of what the researcher did & the conclusions drawn. [5 marks]
  • 17)  Milgram provided situational explanations for obedience. Describe & evaluate 2 situational variables that have been shown by Milgram to affect obedience to authority. [12 marks]
  • 18)  In the context of obedience, explain what is meant by agentic state & legitimacy of authority. [4 marks]
  • 19) Give 1 criticism of the agentic state explanation for obedience. Refer to Milgram's research in your answer. [4 marks]
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41 - Practice Questions 3

  • 19)  Outline & evaluate one or more explanations of obedience. [12 marks]
  • 20)  Explain the term dispositional explanation in relation to explanations of obedience. [2 marks]
  • 21)  In context of explanations of obedience, explain what is meant by the authoritarian personality. [2 marks]
  • 22)  Outline the authoritarian personality explanation for obedience. [6 marks]
  • 23)  Discuss the authoritarian personality as an explanation for obedience. [12 marks]
  • 24)  In context of resistance to social influence, explain what is meant by the term social support. [2 marks]
  • 25)  Identify & explain an everyday example of how social support could lead to resistance to authority. [2 marks]
  • 26)  Outline locus of control as explanation of resistance to social influence. [4 marks]
  • 27)  Describe and evaluate 2 explanations of resistanice to social influence. [12 marks]
  • 28) Explain what is meant by the term minority inflluence. [2 marks]
  • 29) Psychologists believe that minority influence involves consistency, commitment & flexibility. Explain what is meant by each of these factors relating to obedience. [3]
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42 - Practice Questions 4

  • 30)  Describe & evaluate research into minority influence. [12 marks]
  • 31)  In the context of social influence, explain what is meant by social change. [2]
  • 32)  Describe how social influence processes contribute to social change. [6 marks]
  • 33)  Discuss the role of social influence processes in social change. [12 marks]
  • 34)  What is normative social influence?
  • 35)  Outline the strengths & weaknesses of the research method in Asch's study.
  • 36)  What situational factors did Asch identify that affected conformity levels?
  • 37)  'Looking to others for guidance because you lack knowledge of how to behave' is an example of what? [1 mark]
  • 38)  Explain what is meant by identification. [3 marks]
  • 39)  Describe & evaluate 2 studies of conformity. [12 marks]
  • 40)  Discuss 2 variables that affect conformity. [6 marks]
  • 41)  What is a social role?
  • 42)  Briefly outline & evaluate identification with social roles as an explanation for conformity. [4 marks]
  • 43)  Describe & evaluate the findings of one study on conformity to social roles. [8]
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43 - Practice Questions 5

  • 44)  Outline the method of Milgram's (1963) experiment.
  • 45)  In M's experiment, what % of ppts gave the maximum shock?
  • 46)  Why was the validity of Milgram's study criticised?
  • 47)  What is meant by 'proximity' & why is it a factor in obedience?
  • 48)  What is meant by 'agentic shift'?
  • 49)  What does the F-scale measure?
  • 50)  Evaluate M's 1963 study of obedience in terms of ethical issues. [6 marks]
  • 51)  Outline 2 situational variables that may affect obedience. [4 marks]
  • 52)  Outline & evaluate the agentic state as an explanation for obedience. [4 marks]
  • 53)  Describe & evaluate the authoritarian personality as an explanation for obedience. [6 marks]
  • 54)  What is the difference between an internal & external LOC?
  • 55)  What 2 factors may make resistance to social influence more likely?
  • 56)  Explain how an individual's personality can make them more likely to resist SI. [4]
  • 57)  According to Moscovici et al's (1969) study, how does consistency affect MI?
  • 58)  What is social cryptoamnesia?
  • 59)  Outline & evaluate one study into minority influence. [8 marks]
  • 60)  Discuss how social influence can lead to social change. [12 marks]
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44 - Conformity to social roles - Abu Ghraib


  • From 2003 to 2004, United States Army Military Police personnel commited serious human rights violations against Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
  • The prisoners were tortured, physically & sexually abused, routinely humiliated & some were murdered.
  • Zimbardo noticed some remarkable similarities between the behaviour of the personnel at Abu Ghraib and the guards in the Stanford Prison Study.
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very helpful.

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