Social Influence

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: _glomak96
  • Created on: 24-03-14 18:34

Social Psychology: Social Influence

Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group. 

There are two types of conformity according to Kelman (1958), compliance which is when a person publicly agrees with the majority view but privately disagrees, they do this to be accepted and avoid disapproval.   Internalisation occurs when people take on the views of others both publicly and privately, the person adopts the induced behaviour because it is consistent with their own value system.

The difference between forms of social influence:



Source of influence



Direct order from someone with perceived authority

Force of punishment belief in the legitimacy of authority

Conformity (compliance)

Indirect pressure from majority

Desire to be liked or accepted

Conformity (internalisation)

Indirect pressure from majority

Desire to be right




 1956 asked student volunteers to take part in a ‘vision’ test, although the volunteers did not know that, all but one of the participants were really confederates of the experimenter. The purpose of the experiment was to see how the “real” participant would react to the behaviour of the confederates.

Participants were seated in a room and asked to look at three lines of different lengths. They were then asked to state, in turn, which of the three lines was the same length as the standard line. This task seemed easy to the real participant but on some of the trials the other participants seemed to make the wrong choice. Asch wanted to see whether people would change their beliefs (as they deemed it to be right) or change to the majority view.

123 male American undergraduates were tested. He should a series of lines to participants seated at a table. The participants always answered in the same order, with the real participant always answering second to last or last. The confederates were instructed to give the same incorrect answer on 12 of 18 trials.

Asch found that, on 12 of the trials 36.8% of the responses made by the real participants were incorrect which means they conformed to the majority and 25% of the participants never conformed on any of the trials.

To ensure that the stimulus lines were indeed clear, he conducted a control trial with no confederates giving the wrong answers. In this condition he found that people do make mistakes 1% of the time but this could not explain the high levels of conformity in the main study.

So why do people conform?

Asch interviewed some of the participants after and found that they tended to give one of 3 reasons

1.       Compliance (DISTORTION OF ACTION) – The majority of participants said one of view continuously, trusting their judgements so they deemed this to be the social acceptable answer so they changed their public behaviour and gave the incorrect answer to avoid disapproval

2.       Distortion of perception – a small number of participants, started


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Conformity resources »