Social Influence


Types of Conformity


Compliance: conforms publicly, privately disagrees. Shallow and temporary. Generally associated with normative social influence

Identification: conforms publicly and privately to attain group membership. Temporary and changes over time. Associated with both explanations of conformity

Internalisation: conforms publicly and maintains it privately. Permanent and is the deepest. 

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Explanation of conformity and evaluation

Normative social influence: conformity to ber liked and accepted. Associated with compliance. Avoid rejection from a group and achieve membership

Informational social influence: conformity because they want to be right, and do not know an answer. Associated with internalisation. Assume majority is correct in a crisis or ambiguous situation.

Research to support both explanations from Asch's follow up interviews. Conformity happened because they wanted to be liked, and wanted to be right.

The research to support is in an artificial setting and may not be true to real life, questioning real life application 

Social identity theory may be a stronger explation in that people identify with the members of the group and thus change to perform group behaviours

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Asch experiment and evaluation

  • 1951
  • conform to a majority in an unambiguous situation?
  • 50 male college students used; looked at three vertical lines of different lengths and asked which one was the one shows on the screen; all participants were confederates except the one second to the last; unanimous wrong answers were given on 12 of 18 trials
  • 74% of participants conformed at least once; 26% never conformed
  • post experiment interviews showed evidence of both normative and informational social influence
  • even in an unambiguous situation, group pressure is still strong

Results of experiment have been replicated many times, increasing validity and reliability

There is a lack of population validity due to it being all male college students. This affects wider generalisiability

There are ethical issues involving deception, as the participants may face psychological harm because they may worry about their perceptive abilities. 

The presence of McCarthyism may have meant people were too afraid to speak out.

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Zimbardo experiment and evaluations- Conformity to

Deindividuation: the loss of ones individual identity; Situational Factors: a variable in the environment that triggers a change

  • 1973; investigated how readily people conform to social roles
  • 24 well adjusted, healthy males were paid $15 a day for a simulation of prison life; completed psychological tests and randomly allocated prison guard or prisoner roles; prisoners were arresteed without warning in their homes; given numbers instead of names and uniforms for both roles at Stanford; Zimbardo was a prison warden to oversee them; given mirrored shades and other props, allowed complete power but no physical violence
  • the study had to be discontinued after 6 days instead of 14 due to the harrasment causing depression and anxiety- 3 mental breakdowns
  • the situational factor of being a guard changed the behaviour and readily conformed

Clear real life application to Nazi Germany- acting on orders

Brought attention to the capabilities of humans, torture was not a Nazi trait, Americans do it too

The evidence of mental breakdowns showed ethical issues were rife, lack of infomed consent

Zimbardo played a duel role, investigator effects and may have influenced behaviour

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Variables affecting conformity and evaluations (As

Size of Group: the size of the group was adjusted; 2 people in a group had a 13% conformity rate, compared to a rate of 33% in a groiup of 3 or 4. As the group gets larger, conformity rates increase, until they reach 5 people, where results plateau.

Unanimity: conditions where there was a dissenter in the group to give the correct answer. Conformity reduced to 5.5% from 74% when a confederate gave a correct answer. Conformity decreased to 9% when a confederate gave an incorrect but dissenting answer. 

Difficulty of task: if the task is harder, we are more likely to look at others for guidance and conform. If the lines were similar in length, the conformity rates increased.

Research to support ideas in Asch variation studies

No studies on groups larger than 15, so it does not have comlete real life application 

There are cultural differences; individualistic cultures had 25% rate, collectivist had 37% rate

Temporal validity as the McCarthyiam may have affected this experiment as well

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Explanations of obedience

Legitimate Authority: hierarchal leverage someone has over another; has power to reprimand

Agentic state: the opposite to autonomous (where someone has full controls and accepts consequences), where by people believe they are acting as an agent of someone else and lose any personal responsibility.

Research to support from Milgram showing legitimate authority and agentic state

Support from real life application of Nazi Germany

The explanations can be influenced by situational and dispositional factors

it is difficult to differenciate between agentic state and legitimate authority as they often occur at the same time

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Milgram experiment and evaluation- obedience

  • 1963; will people obey an unjust order from a person of authority?
  • 40 male volunteers between 20 and 50 were paid to go to Yale; deceived that the experiment was about the role of punishment in learning; fixed draw to  always select real participant as teacher and confederate as the learner; administer shock every time the learner made a mistake, ranging from 15 volts to 450 volts, the amount rising as the answers were answered wrongly; told the learner had a heart problem but researcher said it is fine; experiment was a tape recording and no one was hurt; if hesitation occured, they would be prompted, "you have no ohter choice but to continue"; ended when 450v was reached or complete refusal occured; the debriefed and taken to meet learner.
  • 100% went to 350v; 65% went to 450v
  • under pressure from an authority most people will go against the conscience to obey

Use of standardised procedure meant cause and effect was clear

Complete debrief given to ensure no harm 

lacks mundane realism as it is not an everyday task, not applicable to real life

may have caused psychological harm as they may feel like they killed someone

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Situational Factors on obedience and evaluations

Proximity: how close the participant is to the confederate; when the learner and teacher were at a distance of 1.5 ft away from each other, obedience rates fell to 40%; when the teahce rhad to hold the learners hand onto a shock plate, the rates fell to 30%; if the experimenter gave orders via phone, obedience fell further to 21%.

Location: when the experiment was moved to a run down office block and not Yale, rates fell to 48%.

Uniform: when the uniform was changed from a lab coat to ordinary clothes, the rate fell to 20%

Bushman: people obeyed a person in police uniform 72% of the time, compared to 48% for a businessman

Research to support from Bushman and situational factors experiments from Milgram

Nazi Germany does not support because the soldiers were close by the victims 

other factors may have caused obedience such as gender or culture

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Dispositional factors on obedience and evaluations

The F-Scale  measured how authoritarian you are, the higher your score, the more authroitarian you are. Authoritarian personality is caused strict parenting causing conformity, conventionality and dogmatism. 

Elms and Milgram: investigated dispositional factors; 20 obedient and 20 disobedients from Milgrams experiment were given the f-scale and a personality test; the obedient participants had higher scores on the f-scale test, had distant relationships with parents and thought the experimenter was admirable, thinking little of the learner; authoritarian personality is a strong predictor for obedience.

Research to support from Elms and Milgram showing relationship between authoritarianism and obedience

It cannot explain obedience across entire society as we cannot all be the same 

The f-scale test is self report and is therefore suseptable to social desirability bias 

Situational factors have a greater role and may overwhelm any effects felt by personality 

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Resistance to social influence

Disobedient models: In terms of conformity, if someone dissents, regardless of whether or not they are correct, conformity will reduce- Asch found conformity decreased to 5.5% when a correct different answer was given. In terms of obedience, if we see other disobey an authority figure, we are more likely to refuse the order. Milgram found that when two confederate aids stopped at 210v, the obedience rate fell from 65% to 10%.

The Rosenstrasse Protest was when a group of 200 German women protested against their Jewish husbands being detained. The Nazis attempted to quell the protest but eventually gave in. 

Locus of Control: When people have an internal locus of control, they perceive themselves as being in control of consequences and responsibility, making them less likely to obey or conform. If they have an external locus of control, they believe their behaviour ic caused by other things, taking less responsibility and making them more likely to obey or conform. 

Holland: repeated Milgrams experiment and measured whether the participants were internal or externals. 37% of internals refused to obey, compared to only 23% of externals. 

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Resistance to social influence evaluation

Research to support from Holland who showed the impact of having an external locus of control

The Rosenstausse Protest showed that due to disobedient models, people are more likely to disobey, reagardless of consequences

Other factors such as situational factors may have caused a bigger impact, for example, location or use of uniform

It is difficult to measure whether someone is internal or externally controlled, because it is based off of self report techniques, meaning it is susceptible to social desiriability bias

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Minority Influence and evaluation

Consistency: if a minority remains consistent, people will reassess the situation and consider the issue more carefully.

Commitment: When a minority sticks to its cause and shows they are willing to give somoething up in order to succeed, the argument is taken more seriously.

Flexibility: they must be willing to negotiate and listen to the opposition, making it neccessary for the majority to listen to them. They must avoid being dogmatic

Moscovici: 172 female participants were asked whether a set of slides were blue or green. Confederates were involved. One group consistently said the blue slides were green, and the other condition said 24 slides were green, and 12 were blue. Participants conformed 8.4% of the time in the consistent condition, compared to 1.3% in the inconsistent condition. 

Research to support from Moscovici and historical support from Sufragettes 

The research can be criticised for lack of population validity, affecting generalisability

The research also used confederates which is considered unethical and can lead to harm

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Social change and evaluation

1) Create attention: express view 

2) Cognitive conflict: show different stance to majority, and thus make people question beliefs

3) Consistency: ensures they are taken more seriously

4) Augmentation principle: the minority are willing to take risks

5) The snowball effect: as people defect to majority, the group gathers momentum and the minority becomes the majority

Research to support from Moscovici who showed consistent minority is more influencial

Support from Rosenstrausse protest, showing a consistent minority and the snowball effect

The boomerang effect may make people more staunch in their majority belief

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