AS Psychology - Social Influence

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A change in a persons behaviour or opinion as a result of real or imagined pressure from a person or a group of people

There are three main types of conformity;

compliance, identification and internalisation


Most superficial type of conformity. 

Conform publicly (out loud) with the views or behaviours expressed by others in the group but continues to privately disagree.

For example, may laugh at a joke that others are laughing at while privately not finding it very funny. 

Temporary change in behaviour that may not continue in the absence of the group.


A deeper level of conformity than compliance.

Generally involves public compliance and private acceptance, although this is often temporary so does not always continue when the person leaves the group.

For example, in the army you may adopt the behaviours and beliefs of fellow soldiers, but on leaving the army for civilian life, new opinions and behaviours will be adopted.

Usually occurs as membership of the group is desired.


The deepest level of conformity. 

The views of the group are internalised, they are taken on at a deep and permanent level, and they become part of the person’s own way of viewing the world.

It involves public and private acceptance of the group’s views and behaviours.

For example, if you are influenced by a group’s religious faith so that you truly convert to that faith, then you will practice those values in the absence of the group.

Research into Conformity - Asch

žUnambiguous task – line judgement žPilot study - only three mistakes in 720 trials ž123 American male undergraduates ž‘Standard line’ and 3 comparisons žAll but one of the participants were “confederates” – 6-8 per group žIncorrect answer on 12 out of the 18 trials – “critical trials” žThe true (naïve) participant was always the last or last but one to answer žMean conformity rate of 36.8% - Participants agreed with the incorrect majority answer on just over one-third of the critical trials žWide individual differences: 5% conformed on every critical trial, 25% remained completely independent žOne of the reasons they agreed with the majority was so as not to stand out from the crowd - clearly an example of compliance Asch Evaluation Temporal validity

Asch’s study took place during the McCarthyist era where during the 1950’s, thousands of American’s were accused of being communists and became the subject of aggressive investigation.

Therefore, at this time the participants in  the study may have been more willing to conform (37% mean conformity rate is quite high on an unambiguous task). The same may not be true of participants today, therefore the study may lack temporal validity – accuracy over time.

In the late 1970s in England Perrin & Spencer tried to replicate Asch’s research using a group of science and engineering students.  In their initial study they obtained only one conforming result out of 396 trials


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