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What is social influence?

The effect other people have on our behaviour. This includes conformity, obedience and social loafing.


Conformity is a change in a person's behaviour or opinions as a result of group pressure.

We conform due to two reasons, firstly there is a need to be right, particuarly when in an ambiguous situation, we will see what other people are doing and assume they're correct. This will lead us to copy them. Secondly, there is a need to be liked, when we are in a social situation, we have a strong desire to be accepted by the rest of the group. This means we are more likey to do or say things that make us more popular within the group.


Aim; To discover the effect on judgement of listening to other people.

Method; He asked participants to estimate how far a spot of light moved when they were sitting in an otherwise completely dark room. In fact the light didnt move at all, but owing to an optical illusion called the Autokinetic effect it did appear to.

Results; Individually the participants gave a variety of estimates, which differed quite widely from each other's. However, after being allowed to undertake the same task in groups of three, their estimates became more similar until finally they were very close.

Conclusion; The participants used other people's opinions to help them form a judgement in an ambiguous situation.


Aim; Asch wanted to know whether people could be influenced by other people's opinions to give an answer they knew to be wrong. In this way it would be possuble to see if people were conforming.

Method; Participants were shown sets of four lines, for each set, the participant had to say whether line A, B, or C was the same length as the test line. When tested alone, the participants rarely made a mistake (the error rate was less than 1%). However, participants also had to give their answers as a part of a group. The rest of the group was instructed to give incorrect answers for some of the tests.

Results; On 32 percent of the trials where the rest of the group gave the wrong answer, the participants gave the same wrong answer as the rest of the group, rather than the obviously correct answer. In fact 74% of the participants gave at least one wrong answer.

Conclusion; The only reason for this 32% error rate was hearing the incorrect answers previously given. Those who gave incorrect answers told Asch they knew their answers were wrong but did not want to go against the rest of the group. This clearly shows normative social influence. ("the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them.")


  • Both conducted in laboratories, this means it was not a natural situation for the participants and they may not have behaved in a natural way. This may have affected the results and is known…


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