Social Influence Studies & Key Ideas


Key Points

  • Obedience - type of social influence that causes a person to act in response to an order given by another person, who usually has power or authority.
  • Conformity -a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with the group, group pressure.
  • Normative social influence - the desire to be liked. When this happens people may comform to the majority position in public but do not internalise this view and nor does this view endure over time.
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Key Points

  • Informative social influence - the desire to be right. This is when we conform because we are unsure of the situation.
  • Compliance -Publicly conforming but privately maintaining one's own views.
  • Identification - Adopting the views or behaviour of a group both publicly and privately because one values membership of that group.
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Key Points

  • Internalization - True change of private views.
  • Deindividualization - The process of losing our personal identity when we are part of a crowd or group
  • Bystander effect - People's reluctance to help people in need, because they think others will help instead.
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Bystander Intervention

  • Situational factors - Features of a situation that influence whether or not we intervence in an emergency. 
  • Personal factors -Features of an individual that influence how likely they are to intervene in an emergency.
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Situational Factors

  • Diffusion of Resonsibility - We feel less responsible when there are more people to help. The larger the crowd the less responsibility individuals feel to intervene.
  • Noticing the Event - In a large crowd we tend to keep to ourselves to ourselves and pay attention to what is going on around us. We are therefore less likely to notice an emergency than when on our own.
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Situational Factors

  • Pluralistic ignorance - We often look to others and react based on what others are doing. We look at others to help us interpret a situation.
  • Cost of Helping -Sometimes we evaluate the sitaution as having too high a cost as it risks harm to ourselves so we choose not to help. 
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Personal Factors

  • Cometence - If we feel competent enough to help, this can influence whether or not we help and the type of help we give.
  • Mood -People are often more likely to intervene and help another if they are in a good mood..
  • Similarity - If we percieve ourselves as similar to the person in need we are more likely to identify with the victim.
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Piliavin et al. (1969) Good Samaritianism

  • Piliavin, Piliavin &  Rodin conducted a field experiment to investigate bystander behaviour. They were particularly interested in the variables that may affect whether people help someone in need.
  • Their research came about following the murder of Genovese in Queens, New York. She was attacked and fatally wounded by a man as she returned to her apartment block. Despite her cries for help onlookers failed to intervene. Piliavin et al. wanted to investigate why people would fail to be 'good samaritans'.
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Aims and Sample

  • The aim of this study was to conduct a field experiment to investigate the effect of several different variables on who responded to help, the likelihood of responding and the speed of responding. The main focus of the research was to investigate the effect of the type of victim and the ethnicity of victim on the speed and frequency of the response and the ethnicity of responder.
  • A total of 4,500 people were present, the mean number of bystanders was 45 and mean in critical area 8.5.
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  • An individual who appears ill is more likely to recieve help than someone who seems drunk.
  • With mixed groups of men and women, men are more likely than women to help a male victim. Women may feel the cost of helping are higher for them.
  • When  escape is not possible and bystanders are face-to-face with a victim, help is likely.
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  • The cost of helping in a large group was comparatively low, as the victim would be percieved as less harmful.
  • Although most helpers acted before the model was scheduled to intervene, the overall findings were that the model's offer of assistance did not tend to influence other passengers.
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  • The field experiment was conducted on a busy subway. Unlike many labortory experiments on bystander behaviour, this study was done in a naturalistic enviroment on passengers who regularly use the subway to commute.
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  • The passengers were unaware that they were being observed or taking part in a psychology experiment.
  • This means that they had not given their consent to take part and may not have chosen to do so had they been asked beforehand. 
  • It is also a weakness that the situation could have caused distress to the participants. They have been witness to an upsetting situation and so could have felt pressure to offer help or guilt for not helping.
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Solmon Asch

  • Solomon Asch conducted an experiment to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform.
  • On average about one third (32%) of the participants in each trial went along and conformed to the clearly wrong answer.
  • 75% conformed in at least one trial.
  • Most said they didn't believe their conforming answer.
  • A few said they did believe the group's answers were right.
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Situational Factors

  • Size of Majority - 
    • Asch found that conformity tends to increase as the size of the group increases.
    • Hoever there is little changr in conformity once the group size reaches 4 - 5. With one other person in the group conformity was 3%, with two others it increased to 13% and with three or more it was 32%.
    • Because conformity does not seem to increase in groups larger than four, this is considered the optimal group size.
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Situational Factors

  • Unamimity of the Majority/ non-conforming role model - 
    • When one other person in the group gave a different answer conformity dropped.
    • Asch found that even the precence of just one confederate that goes against the majority choice can reduce conformity as much as 80%.
    • This supports unamity as a factor leading to an increase in conformmity.
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Situational Factors

  • Task difficulty / ambiguity
    • If the task we are performing is difficult or ambiguous, then we are more likely to look to others for the right answer.
    • The more difficult the task the greater the conformity.
    • In Asch's study, when the lines were made more similar in length conformity increased.
  • Giving answers in private - 
    • When participants could write their answers down Asch found that conformity droped to 12.5%.
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