Social Influence

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Conformity - Compliance

Compliance is the most superficial type of conformity.

'the person confoms publicaly with others but privately disagrees'

Asch 1951
This experiment examined conformity by looking at majority influence.
Asch carried out a study using a standard line and comparison lines. They used confederates who were mixed amongst the participants and were told to give incorrect answers to see if the participants would conform or not.
The overall conformity rate was 37%
5% of participants conformed on every trial
25% remained independant  


  • People are giving uninformed consent 
  • Lack validity as people are amongst strangers which isnt a normal everyday situation
  • Done in a lab so may put pressure on participants
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Conformity - Identification

Identification is a deeper type of conformity.

'person changes their view publicaly and privately to fit in with the group' 

Clark 1998/1999
This experiment shows research into minority influence. 
He wanted to find out whether the minority could influence the majority. 
Clark carried out studies using the film '12 Angry Men' where the participants were to determine whether a man was guilty of murder or not. Here one man disagreed with the majority view and eventually swayed the decision of the group.  
He found that through proving the majority wrong, the minority can influence the decisions of the majority vote.  


  • The participants were asked to play the role of jurors so their decisions may not have been their own
  • These results may not be generalised to a real life situation 
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Conformity - Internalisation

Internalisation is the deepest level of conformity.

'when the views of the group become the person's own way of thinking''

Zimbardo 1971
He set up a mock prison in the basement of a university for his experiment.
He recruited 24 male volunteers and selected the most suitable. He allocated each participant to a role of a prisoner or a guard and gave then uniform accordingly. The guards were given sticks and the prisoners had to be referred to as a number.
Eventually the guards got carried away in their role of authority and the prisoners were being punished, deprived of sleep and became depressed and developed stress-related symptoms due to the experiment.
He found that ordinary, stable individuals can abuse power and become aggressive if placed in a situation like this.


  • Critics called the mock prison a 'living hell' 
  • People thought Zimbardo acted cruelly by not stopping the experiment earlier 
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People obey because of:

  • an authoratitive figure
  • fear of punishment

Milgram 1963
He wanted to find out, to what extent ordinary people would do outrageous things.
He put an advert in the local paper asking for volunteers to take part in a study for 'memory and learning'. When the chosen participants arrived they were greated by the examiner wearing a white lab coat. The participant had the role of the teacher and the confederate had the role of the learner and was taken to another room so they couldn't see each other. The participant had to read out questions to the learner and everytime they got it wrong, give them an electric shock, increasing the voltage each time (15V - 450V). The examiner was to give prompts to encourage the participant to carry on.
He found that all participants went to 300V
65% of participants administered the life threatening 450V


  • the lab setting may have jeopardised the actions of the participants  
  • lacked validity
  • participants had to give uninformed consent 
  • caused considerable stress and potential psychological harm to participants
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Independent Behaviour

Locus of Control:
This concept was developed by Jilian Rotter in 1966. It argues that we can measure an individual's personal control over their life events using a scale. 

Internal Locus of Control 
'I control my destiny'

External Locus of Control
'Others control my destiny' 

High Locus of Control

  • less likely to conform 
  • likely to lead others
  • resists control from others
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