Social psychology

Social influence

Define conformity and minority influence

Conformity: a form of social influence. Results from exposure to the majority position. Leads to compliance with that position. The tendency for people to adopt the behaviour and attitudes of other members of their group.

Minority influence: a form of social influence. Where people reject the established norm of the majority of group members and move to the position of the minority. In contrast with majority influence, minority influence is more likely to lead to internalisation rather than compliance.

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Kelman proposed 3 types of conformity:

Compliance- going along with others to gain their approval or avoid their disapproval. This is a result of social comparison, which enables an individual to adjust their behaviour to that of the group. There is no change in the person's underlying attitude, only their public behaviour.

Internalisation- going along with others because of an acceptance of their point of view. This is a result of an examination of the group's position, which may lead to validation of the person's own views, or acceptance of the group's views both in public and in private.

Identification- going along with others because of a desire to be like them. By adopting the attitudes and behaviours of others, an individual feels more a part of the group, and is more likely to be accepted by them.

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Conformity to majority influence- Asch (1956)

How? Lab experiment; 123 male American undergraduates volunteered to take part in a test of their 'vision', although, unbeknown to these volunteers, all the other p's were confederates of the experimenter. Asch showed a series of lines to the participants seated around a table. Each, in turn, had to state out loud which of 3 comparison lines were the same length as a standard line. The real participant always answered last or second to last. On 12 of the 19 trials, the confederates were instructed to give the same incorrect answer.

Showed? On the 12 trials where confederates gave the same wrong answer, 36.8% of the responses given by real participants were also incorrect (i.e. they conformed to the decision of the group). Only 25% of participants never conformed at all. Without confederates giving the wrong answers, participants were correct in their judgments 99% of the time.

Variation? Showed that when the task was made more difficult, conformity increased. The size of the majority was relatively important (provided it was over 3) but that unanimity was vital otherwise conformity dropped almost completely.

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Evaluation of Asch

A child of its time? Perrin and Spencer concluded that Asch got the results he did because in 1956, America was in the grip of McCarthyism, a strong anti-Communist period when peopel were scared to be different.

Conformity or independence? An overlooked fact is that on 2/3 of the trials where the majority gave the same wrong answer, the participant stuck to their original opinion. This suggests that rather than being overly conformist, human beings are able to display independent behaviour even in the face of an overwhelming majority.

Culture and conformity: A meta-analysis by Smith and Bond established that collectivist cultures show significantly higher levels of conformity than individualist cultures. However, cultures are not homogenous in terms of individualist and collectivist values, so drawing conclusions based on difference between cultures is an oversimplification.

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Individual differences and validity in conformity

Individual differences:

Eagly and Carli carried out a met-analysis of studies and found that women are generally more compliant than men.


Asking people to judge the length of lines is a trivial task, and people may well be willing to conform simply to save face. On a more important task, we might expect conformity levels to drop, as found by Baron et al.

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Conformity to minority influence- Moscovici et al.

How? Lab experiment. Participants: 32 groups of 6 women. In each group, 2 women were confederates and 4 were reals p's. They were shown 36 blue slide, eacha  slightly different shade. Participant's had to describe the colour of each slide as it was presented. In one condition, the confederates consistently described each slide as 'green', and in another they answered 'green' 24 times and 'blue' 12 times, so were inconsistent. In a control group, participants answered without any influence from the confederates.

Showed? The real p's went along with the minority on 8.42% of the trials when they were consistent in their judgments, but this dropped to 1.25% when the minority was inconsistent. 32& went along with the minority at least once. When p's were allowed to write down their judgments rather than saying them aloud, their agreement with the minority increased. This suggests that part of the inhibition of minority influence is people's reluctance to be seen as aligning themselves with a deviant minority in public.

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Research evidence for Moscovici

Wood et al. carried out a meta-analysis of 97 studies of minority influence, and confirmed that:

  • Minorities perceived as consistent were most influential.
  • Majority group members avoided aligning themselves with a deviant minority because they did not want to be seen as deviant themselves.
  • Majority group members were more likely to admit being influenced by the minority privately rather than publicly.
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Explaining minority influence

Conversion theory:

When an individual is exposed to an argument that contradicts their own views, this creates a conflict. They are motivated to reduce this conflict, and so examine the views of the minority more closely to understand why these people do not hold the same opinions as they do. As a result, the individual concentrates on the content the minoirity's argument, which means that there is the possibility that their views will be internalised. In contrast, when exposed to the opinions of the majority, there is no need to do this, and any change in opinion is due solely to the relationship between the individual and the group (i.e. compliance).

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Evaluating minority influence

Majority rather than minority influence- Mackie argues that in fact it is the majority who are more likely to create greater message processing because of the false consensus effect (the belief that the majority of group members share similar beliefs). If the majority expresses a view that is different from that of an individual, they must consider it carefully to understand why it is different.

Validity- the relevance of minority influence beyond the laboratory is not that clear-cut. Kalven and Zeisel suggest that amoung juries, it is the majority view at the time deliberation begins that tends to determine the final verdict.

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Explanations of conformity- Normative & Informatio

N: This happens when an individual acts in the same way as the majority without actually accepting their point of view. It is also known as compliance. Because humans are a social species, they have a strong desire to be accepted and a fear of rejection. This makes it difficult for them to deviate from the majority, because of the risk of rejection.

I: Individuals may go along with the majority because they genuinely believe them to be right, i.e. they have more information than the individual has about that particular issue. This tends to results in the individual conforming in both behaviour and attitude, therefore is an example of internalisation. Most likely when:

  • Situation is ambiguous
  • Situation is a crisis
  • We believe others to be experts
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Explanations of conformity- Social impact theory (

This theory aims to explain why people conform in some siutations but not others, The likelihood of conformity is determined by the following factors:

Number- the more people present, the more influence they will have on the individual. However, beyong a certain point, the rate of impact associated with a growth in majority size decreases.

Strength- the more important members of the majority are to the individual, the more influence the majority will have over them, as shown by Perrin and Spencer.

Immediacy- we are more influenced by others that are more immediate to us. For example, we are more likely to conform to those with whom we interact regularly or living close to us, rather than those with whon we rarely interact or that live further away.

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Define obedience to authority; monocausal emphasis

Obedience to authority: A type of social influence. Somebody acts in response to a direct order from a figure with perceived authority. There is also the implication that the person receiving the order is made to respond in a way that they would not have done without the order.

Monocausal emphasis: Relying on just one causal factor when explaining an event.

Obedience alibi: Reaching a conlusion that obedience had a key role in Holocaust events when such a conclusion is unjustified given an analysis of the historical record.

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These are amazing notes...WAY better than my teacher

Thanks :]

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