Why people conform

Why people conform pg 154 & 155

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  • Created by: yemisi
  • Created on: 12-05-10 23:17

Explanations of why people conform

There are three explanations to why people conform are:

  1. Normative social influence
  2. Informational social influence
  3. Social impact theory
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Normative social influence

  • Is based on the desire to be liked and accepted
  • Changes in public but not privately (compliance)


  • Garandeau and Cillessen have shown research of normative influence in bullying.
  • They have shown that groups with a low quality of interpersonal friendships may be manipulated by a skilful bully so that victimisation of another child provides the group with a common goal which is creating pressure on all group members to comply
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Informational social influence

  • Is when we accept the majority point of view because it is most likely to be right.
  • As a result we don’t just comply we also change our own point of view inline with those doing the influencing
  • Because this involves changing both public at private behaviours this is an example of internalisation
  • Informational social influence is most likely when:
    1. The situation is ambiguous (the right course of action is not clear)
    2. The situation is a crisis(rapid action is required)
    3. We believe others to be experts (we believe that others are more likely to know what to do)
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  • Some studies have demonstrated how exposure to other people’s belief has an important influence on social stereotypes.
  • Wittenbrink and Henly found that participants exposed to negative comparison information about African Americans (which led to believe that was the view of the majority) later reported more negative beliefs about a black target individual
  • Fein supported the role of information social influence in political opinion by showing how judgements of candidate performance in the us presidential debates could be influenced by the knowledge of others reactions. Participants saw what the reaction of their fellow participants during the debate. This produced large shifts in participants judgements of candidates performance, demonstrating the power of informational influence in shaping opinion
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Social impact theory

  • It states that the likelihood that a person will respond to social influence depends on:
    1. The strength – The more important the people are to the individual the more influence they will have
    2. Number- The more people present the more influence they will have on the individual. However Asch found that conformity rates rose dramatically up to three or four individuals but not much more beyond that size.
    3. Immediacy – Each individual can influence others but the more people present the less influence any one individual will have. We are more likely to listen attentively to one speaker in a small group than if we are in a large group.
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Support for social impact theory

  • In a test of the principles of social impact theory’s Jackson found that high strength and high immediacy sources resulted in more conformity than low strength and low immediacy sources
  • Latane revised this theory into the dynamic social impact theory

1. Consolidation: Over time the majority grows in size and minority decreases in size so the resisting conformity becomes even more difficult

2. Clustering: People are more influenced by their closest neighbours and so clusters of group members with similar options emerge e.g cliques

3. Correlation: Over time group members opinions on other issue even ones not originally discussed converge so that their opinions on a variety of matters become similar.

4. Continuing diversity: Because of clustering members of minorities can be shielded from the influenced attempts of the minority and their non-normative beliefs continue on within the group.

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