Social Influence

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  • publicly changing attitudes and behaviour to fit in with the group
  • also agree with it privately


  • publicly changing attitudes and behaviour to fit in with the group
  • disagree with the change privately
  • do it to be favoured


  • going along with others because you have accepted their point of view - only because of a desire to be like them 
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Conformity to majority influence

AO1 - Asch (1956)

  • student volunteers - vision test
  • only 1 was a real participant - the rest were confederates 
  • wanted to see how the real participant would react to the confederates behaviour
  • asked to state which like out of 3 was the same length as the standard line 
  • 123 male undergraduates
  • confederates gave the incorrrect answer in 12 of the 18 trials 
  • on the 12 critical trials, 37% of the responses by participants were wrong
  • 1/4 never confromed
  • control study - only 1% made mistakes
  • interviewed some participants to find out why they confromed, they concluded
    • distortion of perception
    • distortion of judgement
    • distortion of action 
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Conformity to majority influence - part II


  • -ve biased sample -doesnt represent greater population
    • students/volunteers
    • male/american
  • -ve individual differences
    • a meta analysis was carried out of 145 studies and found that women were generally more compliant than men 
  • +ve influential - many follow up studies
  • -ve cultural differences - individualist vs collectivist
    • collectivist less concerned with personal goals there should be more likely to yield to majority 
  • -ve ethics
    • participants unaware of the real purpose of the experiement 
    • +ve however they were debreifed and told they had the right to withdraw their data
  • -ve 'child of its time'
    • conducted in an era of McCarthyism - strong anti communist feeling - scared to be different - carried out may give different results 
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Conformity to minority influence

AO1 - Moscovici et al 1969

  • minority having an effect on majority through consistence in the view
  • tested 32 groups of 6 women in each
  • 2 confederates in each group
  • shown blue slied - filter vaired the colour intensity
  • participants asked to verbally describe the colour they saw
  • confederates answered 1st + 2nd or 1st + 4th - stating the slide was green 
  • another part of the experiment confederates were inconsistent - said green 24 times and blue 12
  • agreed with minority on 8.42% of the trials
  • 32% gave the same answer as the minority at least once
  • when they were inconsistent, agreement with minority was only 1.25%
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Conformity to minority influence - part II


  • -ve biased sample - not representative of greater population -all females
  • -ve individual differences
    • studies have show that women are more likely to conform 
  • +ve influential 
    • one study suggests minority influence research has given important insights into how and when social influence works e.g. the importance of consistency
  • -ve validity
    • real world application suggests that minority influence is very rare
    • one study claims that when it comes to a jury making a decision, majority view determines the verdict
  • +ve supporting study
    • a meta analysis of 97 studies of minority influence found that minorities who were consistent were particularly influential
    • majority group more likely to admit being inlfuenced privately rather than publicy - dont want to be seen as deviant 
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Why do people conform?

Normative social influence

  • based on our desire to be liked
  • we confrom so others will approve of us - therefore making us fit in 

Informational social influence

  • based on our desire to be correct
  • we look to others who may be right to give us information about how to behave - particularly in novel situations

Social impact theory

  • theory of why we confrom in some situations but not others
  • number - more people present = more influence
  • strength - more important the people the more influence
  • immediacy - the more people present, the less influence one person will have 
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Obedience to authority

AO1- Milgram 1963

  • interested in the circumstances under which people might be induced to act against their consciences by inflicting harm on others
  • 40 male paritcipants - volunteers
  • Yale university
  • two confederates - the experimenter (authority figure) and an accountant (the learner)
  • had to give an increasingly strong electric shock each time the learner got a question wrong
  • learner sat in another room - gave mainly wrong answers - fake shocks - silent until 300V
  • if the participants asked to stop the experimenter would say 'its absolutely essential you continue' etc
  • 65% of participants continued to 450 volts
  • all went to 300 - only 5 stopped at that point (12.5%
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Obedience to authority - part II


  • -ve biased sample - not representative of greater populartion - 40 male volunteers
  • -ve lacked mundane realism
    • simply not a believable situation
  • -ve ethics
    • ethically wrong
    • people may judge themselves after the debrief - place in a stressful situations
  • -ve deception
    • lack of informed consent
    • participants didnt know the true purpose of the experiment
    • not clear that participants had the right to withdraw
  • -ve cultural differences
    • different cultures respond differently to obedience
    • individualistic vs collectivist
  • +ve generalisability
    • study found high levels of obedience in nurses - but in another more realisitc study they found the opposite as 88% refused
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Why do people obey?

Gradual commitment

  • orders given gradually move from reasonable to unreasonable
  • this makes it hard for the participant to realise when they are behaving in an unreasonable way
  • Milgram - participants had already given lower level shocks - became difficult to change their minds + opinions on what they were doing


  • refers to aspects of situations that protect people from having to confront the results of their actions
  • Milgram - teacher and learner were in different rooms - the teacher was protected from having to see the victim - in follow up studies when the learner was in the same room, the buffering effect was reduced as was the tendency to obey the experimenter
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Why do people obey? - part II

Social impact theory

  • states that the likelihood that a person will respond to social influence will increase with strength and number (S K I)
  • Milgram - experimenter had knowledge and status as he was wearing a lab coat - he had immediacy as the experimenter and participant were physically close - he had strength because he was consistent in what he was asking the participant to do 

Agentic shift

  • when people operate on two levels
  • autonomously/voluntarily (aware of consequences) and agentically ("not responsible" directly)
  • Milgram - at any pariticular time a person is in one of two psychological states - autonomous state making decisions on their own ideas/beliefs - and agentic where they give up their own responsibility deferring to those of higher status 
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Locus of Control

A persons perceptions of personal control over their own behaviour

  • High internal = great personal control
  • High external = external influence is greater e.g. luck 
  • Internal - their behaviour is caused primarily by their own actions and efforts
  • External - it is fate and luck that dominate their behaviour 
  • Research has shown that 
    • high externals are active seekers of information that is useful to them and so are less likely to rely on the opinion of others
    • high internals tend to be more achievement-orientated and consequently more likely to be leaders and entrepeneurs
    • high internals are better able to resis coercion of others
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Locus of Control - part II


  • are we becoming more external?
    • meta analysis found that young Americans are increasingly external
    • locus of control scores had become more external in student + child samples between 1960 and 2002
    • why? western countries have seen drmatic social changes e.g. the rise in divorce rates and violent crimes therefore young people see many aspects of their lives as beyond their control
  • +ve supporting research
    • research suggest sthat internals are more likely to become leaders than follow others
    • one study found that group members possessing an internal locus of control were more likely to emerge as leaders in their groups
  • individual differences
    • one study of 2600 Russian employees found men were more likely to exhibit an internal locus of control than women  
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