Social Influence

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  • Created by: Mary Moon
  • Created on: 30-05-13 17:34

Conformity to majority influence

COMPLIANCE: Going along with others for approval or to aviod dissaproval. Public compliance, with little or no private attitude change.

INTERNALISATION: Going along with others because you've accepted their point of view because its consistant with your own. Acceptance of view publically and privately.

ASCH: 123 undergraduates asked to take part in vision test, 1 particpant, the rest confederates. 3 different length lines, asked to state match with standard line, always obvious. Confeds asked to give wrong answer 12/18 trials, record participants reactions. P always 2nd from last.

36.8% conformed to majority, only 25% never conformed. 

Interviews showed that p's gave 2 different reasons why, (1) Distortion of perception - agreed, (2) Distortion of judgement - doubted self, (3) Distortion of action -aviod disapproval.

VARIATIONS : Difference in lines decreased - Conformity Increased. Majority 1/2 - little conformity, majority 3 - 30%. Support of 2nd P - dropped to 5%. Lone 'dissenter' gave different answer - dropped to 9%.

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Evaluating ASCH conformity research

  • VALIDITY - Only tells us about conformity in certain circumstances. WILLAM & SOGAN - tested P's who belong to same sports club - conformity increased.
  • ETHICS - Deception: P's didnt know real nature of study or that other p's were confederates. Researchers did however, inform after and offer right to withdraw data - informed concent. 
  • CULTURE - SMITH & BOND - meta-analysis. Cultural variables on conformity levels had greater influence than any other variable. US & UK classified as individualist, and others (Figi & Japan) as collectivist. Collectivist countries showed higher levels of conformity. Levels of conformity declined since ASCH'S study in the 50's. 

      Drawing conclusions based on differences between cultures may be an over           simplification. Differences in the relevance of meaningfulness of the nature of the study to the specific culture. Task more meaningful for one culture than another therefore its these differences in cultures being measured rather than conformity.

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Conformity to MINORITY influence (Internalisation

  • MOSCOVICI- Proposed minority must be consistant creating conflict in a group leading to questioning and changing own views. 32 groups of 6 women, 2 confederates, 4 p's. Shown 36 blue-coloured slines. Asked what colour they see. Confeds sat 1 &2 or 1 & 4 - said they were green. P's conformed 8.42% of trails, 32% conformed to minority at least once.
  • WOOD- Meta-analysis - especially consistant minorities were particulary influencial. Majority tend to aviod aligning selves with deviant minority as they dont want to be seen as deviant themselves. Majority likely to admit privately not publically. 
  • WHY- Conversion Theory - a contradictory view creates conflict, motivating individual to reduce conflict by trying to analyse and understand point of view. Individuals attention is on content of message not relationship, increasing likelihood of internalising message. 
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Explanations of why people conform

  • Normative Social Influence: Behaving like majority without accepting view (Compliance). Majority in control by making it hard for group to deviate - demonstrated in Asch's study. Humans are social species and need social companionship and fear rejection. 
  • Practical Value: Groups with low quality of interpersonal friendships may be easily manipulated by bully to victimise another child providing a common goal.
  • Informational Social Influence: Individuals genuinly believing view to be right. Behaviour changes privately and publically (Internalisation). Most likely when situation is ambiguos, a crisis or others are 'experts'. 
  • Practical Value: FEIN: Judgement of candidates performance in US presidential debate is influenced by others reactions. P's saw what reaction of p's in debate on screen, proving large shifts in p's judgements. 
  • Social Impact Theory: LATANE: theory explaining why people conform in onl some situations. More people present more influential. More importance on individual, more influential. More people present, less influential individual has. 

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Obedience to Authority


  • Investigating if people will obey legitamite authoirty when when required to do something harmful to an innocent person.
  • 40 male p's volunteered to take part in 'how punishment affects learning' in Yale Uni. 2 confederates as experimenter (authority) and learner. P's always 'teacher' asked to give increasingly strong shoks to 'learner' each time he got a question wrong.
  • Learner recieved fake shocks in silence untill 300v (very strong). Pounded on wall and gave no response and from then on said nothing. If teacher asked to stop, experimenter set of 'prods' to repeat 'you must go on'. 
  • FOUND: 65% continued to 450 volts max voltage. Far beyond what was marked 'Danger: Severe shock'. All p's when to 300v and only 5 (12%) stopped there.
  • CONCLUSION: Not evil people who commit atrocities but normal people obeying orders. Crimes may be result of situational rather than dispositional factors. Individuals capacity for making independant decisions is suspended when their in a low position within powerful social heirachy.  
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Milgram's Variations: Situational Factors

Proximity of victim: Teacher and learner in same room - 40%

Teacher presses hand on shock plate - 30%

Proximity of authority figure: Orders over the phone - 21%

P's gave lower shocks and repeated smallest shock.

Presence of allies: 2 confederate teachers who refused - 10%

Increasing teachers discretion: Choice of shock level up to them - 2.5% (highest shock)

refused shock beyond protest - 95%

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Evaluating Milgram's research into obedience to au


  • Deception & Lack of concent: - P's werent told real purpose of experiment. M argued experiment would be meaningless. P's felt they has learned something of importance.
  • Right to Withdraw:- P's were free to leave however 'Prods' made them feel they had to stay. 
  • Protection from psychological harm: BAUMAND: placed p's under emoional strain, causing psychological damage that couldnt be justified. Milgram said he didnt know such high levels of distress would be caused, 84% of p's felt good to have participated. 


  • Realism:- ORNE & HOLLAND - doubt internal validity. P's have learned not to trust experimenters knowing true purpose may be disguised. Eg experimenter remains cool and calm when learner cries out in pain - leads p's to guess shocks are fake. However, post-experimental interviews showed that majority believed real shocks.
  • Generalisablity:- HOFLING - More realistic setting - hospital. Nurses phones by Dr smith asking to give twice the dosage of a medication to a patient. (shouldnt take orders over phone, unknown doctor, double dosage) 21/22 did as requested. 
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Explanations of why people obey & Critisisms

Explanations of why people obey-

  • Gradual commitment: - Having commited to a particular cause of action, difficult to back out.
  • Agentic Shift - Position of seeing self as an agent for carrying out someone elses wishes.
  • Role of Buffers- Teacher is protected from seeing consequence of shocks.
  • Justifying Obedience - Helping science improve their memory. Jews danger to Germans.


  • MANDEL - when applied to holocause, oversimplified and misleading, ignores other explanat.
  • AGENTIC SHIFT - Holocause perpetuators duties over months/years compared to 30 mins in lab. P's also reassured that shocks would cause no permanent damage. 
  • CONSEQUENCES of obedience alabi - Conclusion that obedience had a key role in the Holocaust events is unjustified given an analysis of the historical record. 'Just obeying orders' - distressing for those affected by Holocaust explanation exonerates war criminals for their crimes. 
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Bickman's study into Obedience

AIM- investigating affect of visable signs of authority in obedience - Uniforms

Method - Feild experiment, 3 male ecperimenters. (1) casual sports clothes, (2) milkman, (3) guard. Went up to strangers in NYC asking for money for parking metre. 

Findings - P's most likelt to obey guard and least likely casual sports wear. 

Conclusions - Support hypothesis that obedience is related to amount of percieved authority. 

Evaluation - Field experiment - high ecological validity and mundane realism

    Decreased control and increased ethical issues - lack of informed      consent.

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Resisting Pressures to Conform/ Obey

  • Desire to be an individual sometimes outwieghs pressurs to conform
  • Desire to maintain control, if we expereinves obvious group pressures we feel our freedom is being threatened. 
  • Prior commitment, once people publically commit to an opinion they are less likely to change it than if they had held it privately. 
  • Time to think and find social support, fear of rejection may prevent us from actively resisting conformity. Finding support from another person will build confidence and aid resistance.
  • OBEY
  • Feeling responsible and empathetic eg. feeling responsible for harm in MILGRAMS study acted as trigger to shock them out of agentic state - 'I cant hurt this man, hes a human like me, i wouldnt want it done to myself. 
  • Exposing people to disobedient models encourages disobedience - eg MILGRAMS study paired with confed refusing - 10% obedience
  • Questioning motives and status of authority prevents automatic obedience eg MILGRAMs study transferred to run down building 48% obedience as easy to question legitimacy of experimenter. 
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Explanations on Independent Behaviour (1)

Locus of Control

  • Persons perception of personal control over their own behaviour. 'High internal' or 'High external'
  • High Internal - Behaviour is caused by their own efforts and decisions.Achievement orientated, leaders, active seekers of information - dont rely on other opinions. Better at resisting coercion from others. 
  • High External - percieve their behaviour as consequences of external influences or luck or fate. 
  • ANDERSON & SCHNEIER - found high internal locus of control group members were more likely to emerge as leaders of groups rather than following others. 
  • TWENGE - meta-analysis young American's increasingly believe their lives are caused by outside forces. Found locus of control scores had become substantially more external in studnent samples between 1960 - 2002. This is negative as externality is correlated with poor school achievement and decreased solf control. 
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Explanations of independent behaviour (2)

Attribution Style

  • Personality attribute indicating how people explain why they experience an event, success or failure, and learn from experience developing an attribution style. 
  • Personal (dispositional vs situational): see themselves as cause of event or blame situational factors.
  • Permanent (stable vs unstable): unchangeable or changeable.
  • Pervasive (global vs local): Seeing situation as affecting all aspects of their life or just restricting to just that even, 'never mind, ill concentrate on other subjects.'
  • Posotive & Negative styles: negative attriutional style (dispositional)- blame themselves. events continue indefinetly affecting all aspects of their life.
  • Posotive explanatory style (situational)- blame others, negative experiences not affecting other parts of their life.
  • Research: HEAVEN - teenagers in Austrailia, found signifcant differences bettween self-identified studious students (conformed to rules, worked hard) and rebel students. rebels- scored lowest on  posotive attribution style and highest on negative.
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Implications of Social Change

Social Change: 3 major factors that contribute to the minority influencing the majority:

  • Consistency- With a confident viewpoint, you are more likely to influence the majority.
  • Flexibility- Must be flexible with their viewpoint so more people can relate to the minority view.
  • Non dogmatic- Views must not appear rigid that cannot be altered.

Nazi Germany:
Hitler influenced the majoirty through the Nazi regime. The guards of the camps said they were just following orders.
Link to Minority Influence and Social ChangeHitler had persuaded thousands (then eventually millions) of German people to adopt anti-Jewish attitudes and beliefs, making the majority of the German people think that “ethnic cleansing” was justified. TThis is an example of how a minority can influence a group (majority), leading to social change (creating an anti-Jewish society, the holocaust, etc). 

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Research for social change: researc

Jury Settings-Clarks 12 Angry Men:

  • Presented 220 students with overwhelming evidence that a man had commited the murder of his father. 
  • Minority student defeding the man was able to convince the majority of his innocence.

This is an example of minority influence as Clark’s research demonstrates how one person can influence the way in which others think and act. In terms of social change, a persuasive minority in a jury could affect whether the accused is rightfully processed by the judicial system and can be demonstrated in a number of different events in history (e.g. suffragettes)

AND USE MOSCOVI'S STUDY FROM SLIDE 2 (Conformity to minority influence)

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