Explanations of conformity

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Normative social influence

Most instances of conformity to the influence of a majority are due to informational social influence. This means that individuals tend to adopt the behaviours of the majority of a group because they do not want to be left out. Individuals do not believe the majority, they simply comply in order to be accepted. An example might be a person who openly agrees with the racist views of his or her new work colleagues, but is not themself racist and does not believe racism is right. 

Informational social influence

When the situation is ambiguous, people have a tendency to conform to the majority because it is a source of information. In other words, if an individual is unsure as to the correct answer or behaviour then they tend to believe the majority opinion and behave accordingly. Individuals internalise the majority opinion because they want to be right. An example might be someone who cannot decide which way to vote in a general election who, after finding out how everyone else in their group is voting, starts to believe the opinion of the group and votes the same way.

Sherif (1935) - the auto

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