Social Influence

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It is the tendencey for people to adopt the behaviour, attitudes and values of the other members of a group. Someone who does not conform would be described as deviating.

Two types of conformity are:

  • Compliance: going along with others to gain their approval or avoid their dissaproval. They may conform in public but continue to disagree underneath.
  • Internatlisation: going along with others because you have accepted their point of view. Individuals change both their public and private view and internalise the view of the influencing group.

Compliance is motivated by wanting to fit in or to be like and this results in public compliance around a particular group.

Internalisation is motivated by going along with something because they believe the group is right and they are wrong leading to the individual accepting their point of view.

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Dual Process Dependency Model

Normative social influence:

Desire to be liked

We conform because we prefer to be accepted by the group rahter than stand out (desire to be liked), either because belonging to the group is rewarding in some way or the group has the power to punish or exlude. This is COMPLIANCE.

Informational social influence:

Desire to be right

We may conform if we are unsure on what to do or how to behaviour in unfamiliar situations. We look to other people for cluse and copy them as they may have more knowledge, we conform because we want to be right. This is INTERNALISATION.

+ Supported by Asch, Ps conformed when they didn't want to stand out.

- People are still affected by the group even if not present meaning no pressure is applied to them, suggesting conformity is more complex that the model suggests.

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  • Set out to demonstrate that people conform to a group norms when they are put in an unclear situation.
  • He conducted a lab experiment and used the Autokinetic effect (small sport of light will appear to move but infact doesn't).
  • He placed people in groups of 3 based on their similar results but 1 person in the group had very similar results
  • Found that the person with different results changed their view to conform with others answers.
  • Concluded people tend to conform.


  • Lacks ecological validity as it was a lab experiment however has high control over extraneous variables so results are not affected therefore can be used.
  • Lacks mundane realism as people would not experience this in real life meaning it cannot be used to mirror the real world.
  • Results are reliable, other studies such as Asch also found that people conform to the majority view showing consistency of results.
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Social Impact Theory (Latane)

Theroy attempts to explain why people conform in one situation but not another. Dependant on 3 factors:

  • Strength - the more important someone is the more likely they are to influence.
  • Immediancy - social or physicla distance between the influencer and the person.
  • Number - the more people there are the more influence they exert.


  • Been supported by research findings, Jackson et al found high strength and higher immediacy have a greater impact on someones conformity levels.
  • Explains why people conform in some situations but not others. External validity
  • Doesn't explain why some individuals conform and others don't. Research has found different levels of conformity but the 3 factors are kept at the same strength.
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This is following an order or instruction from another person.


  • He aimed to investigate whether people would obey so far as to gie a fatal electric shock on an innocent person.
  • 40 male volunteers were told they were going to be taking part in a study that concerned the role of punishment in learning.
  • They were told they were either going to be a teacher or a learner (however all were teachers as this lead them to believe that the learners were other participants but they were infact actors).
  • Ps were told to ask leaners questions and if they got it wrong they were told to shock them, increasing the volts each time until they reached 450v which is fatal.
  • The shocks were not real and if Ps didn't want continue they were urged to, it was predicted only 1% would go to the full voltage but infact 65% of people did.
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Milgram came up with the situational factors in obedience:

Proximty of the victim decreases obedience as it removes the psychological buffer between the action and consequence (couldn't see the person being shocked).

Presence of allies when the role was shared, when 'fake' P withdrew almost all 'real' participants withdrew as well.

Proximity of authority figure made participants feel they were being monitored so obedience levesl were high.

Culture may have influenced whether people obeyed.


Seemed to be 2 reasons for obedience: use of incremental increases (smaller steps up in voltage seemed to increase the reason for people to continue) and diffusion of responsibility (experimenter ensured pariticipants they wouldn't be to blame.

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Milgram's Evaluation

Breaches ethical guidelines as participants were lied to about what was happening in the experiment, and confidentiality was also breached as it was filmed and data was available publically.

Sample is unrepresentitive as they volunteered so may be more motivated to take part therefore the study lacks population validity meaning it is not a legitmate explaination of obedience.

Lab experiment so has high control however artificial conditions so lacks ecological validity as it cannot be applied to other settings.

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Explanations of Obedience

Gradual commitment - requests start small but gradually become bigger, having commited themselves to a course of action it became more difficult to change their minds. Shown in Milgram's experiment - increased in steps of 15V, many people obeys because what they had to do next was not much different from what they just did.

Agentic shift - where a person sees themselves as an agent for carrying out another persons wishes. Milgram said people shift from agentic state to autonomous state (acting on their own). Shown in Milgram's study where Ps were told they would recieve no blame.

The role of buffers - were unable to see the consequences, protects individual from some distress they may experience when they carry out actions that harms another. Teacher and learner were in seperate rooms during Milgram's experiment.

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Evaluations of Explanations

Mandel suggested that by focusing sorely on obedienceis an explaination of the things carried out during the Holocaust, Milgram ignored other possible explanations. There is a book that speaks of unnecessary and voluntary acts of cruelty carried out during the Holocaust.

The agentic shift was created after Milgram's experiment was carried out for no more than ahlf an hour in a lab, whereas the Holocaust was carried out over months. Milgram still believed you could apply this explaination to both situations despite the clear differences.

Milgram claims that the Holocaust happened purely because of obedience is invalid, such a historical event cannot be pin pointed. Saying this to people affected by the Holocaust can be distressing.

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Independent Behaviour

Locus of control: Resisting social influence

Rotter came up with idea which is an aspect of our personalities that may lead us to act independantly. Having external LOC means you believe you have no control over the events (more likely to conform as they don't take responsibility) and having interal LOC means you believe you have complete control over things that happen in your life (less likely to conform, feel they have responsibility).

  • Questionnaires are used to determine this however they lack reliability and validity as people may give socially desirable answers but it is a fast process
  • Twenge carried out a meta analysis on LOC scores, found young people more external

Role of allies: Resisting conformity

ASch showed how the introduction of someone who went against majority caused conformity to drop. Breaking a groups consensus is improtant in increasing resistance.

  • Individual differences have studies showing women are more likely to conform
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Independent Behaviour

Status and proximity: resisting obedience

Milgram moved the setting from a university to a downtown office people felt able to resist the expermenter more telling us status of the authoritive figure is a key factor to resistance.

Resistance increased when the victim could be seen, they are made aware of consequences.

  • Individual differenes were eduction and religion in Milgrams experiment: more likely to obey were less educated and Roman Catholics and less like to obey were more educated and Protestants.
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Social Change

Social change occurs when a society as a whole adopts a new belief or way of behaving which then becomes widely accepted as the norm. 

  • Consistency
    To be more successful you have to be consistent and confident in what you are saying.
  • Drawing attention to an issue
    Being exposed to minority viewpoint creates a conflict that we are motivated to reduce.
  • The role of conflict
    Sometimes you cannot dismiss something that is 'odd' meaning the conflict remains so we then examine the conflict more closely drawing more attention to the issue
  • The argumentation principle
    States if someone puts their point of view across and risk is involved then those who express the views are taken more seriously as they are willling to suffer.

Evidence comes from suffragette, they drew attention to the fact that women were denied the rights of men and having exposed these views to the majority they face conflict. They were consistent with their view and they were arrested therefore put themselves at risk.

Minority influence doesn't necessarily lead to social change as they are seen as deviating, they create potential rather than actual change.


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