social influence start


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.
1 of 8

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 situation
2 of 8

Evaluations of Types & Explanations for conformity

(+) 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.
3 of 8

Conformity: Asch's reasearch


  • 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)
4 of 8

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.
5 of 8

Evaluation of Asch

(-) 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 (high 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 whcih has an individualist culture. Collectivist cultures had higher rates of conformity. Ethnocentrism.
6 of 8

Stanford prison experiment - Zimbardo

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 and by actual police, ***** searched, given uniform and a number.
  • Social roles strictly divided - 16 rules prisoners had to follow - they were only called by their number.
  • Guards - had a wooden club, handcuffs, keys & had complete power over the prisoners.


  • 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.
7 of 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.
8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all social influence resources »