Influence of Others
As a social being, your thoughts and behaviours are influenced by those of
the people around you. You look to others for cues to determine how you
should feel and act in a given situation.
The influence of others has broad implication a topics ranging from cultural
norms to advertising. Research in social psychology is particularly
interesting because what may initially seem obvious, is not necessarily so.
Presence of Others:
Each year, cyclist compete in the grueling Tour de France through a course
that winds through valleys, hills and flats, leading to a final push in the last
several kilometers where each rider give everything he has left.
o Norman Triplett observed that cyclists raced faster when competing
against each other in a group, compared to when racing against the
clock on an individual time trail.
o Triplett looked at children and how they react to something
completive with no reward. He asked a child to perform a simple task
of winding a string as fast as he could either alone or in groups. He
noticed that children wind the fishing rod faster when others are
Triplett hypothesized that the mere presence of other was an important
variable in the performance of the actor.
o These group members can be divided into co-actors and the audience.
o Co-actors are individuals performing the same task along with you.
o Audience are a group of people watching an individual perform a task
o Social facilitation is the increased performance that occurs in the
presence of co-actors an audience.
In some cases having the presence of an audience can hinder performance
on tasks such as learning nonsense syllable, completing a difficult maze or
solving complex problems.
Robert Zajonc suggested that the important factor to consider is that
presence of others increases your arousal
o How people heightened arousal depends on the specific task to be
Simple tasks that you are an expert at, your performance will
Complex tasks that you are not good at; your performance will
Social Learning Theory:
Social learning theory can help you to understand how a complex cognitive
skill such as language is acquired in children through explicit reinforcement Albert Bandura’s theory suggests that you learn appropriate behaviours by
modeling and imitating the behaviours of others.
o Social learning theory can be differentiated from basic conditioning
because the behaviours you learn from other do not always require
explicit reinforcement to develop
Bobo Doll Experiment: a bobo doll is an inflatable doll with a weight in the
bottom that picks the doll up once it tips over
In Bandura’s study, individual children the ages of 3 and 6 offered a variety
of toys to play with in a room with an adult.
o The adult would model either aggressive or passive play with the toys
in the room
o For example, the adult would engage in aggressive model on the doll
by yelling, punching and hitting it.
o After viewing the adult the child went into the room and his
behaviour was particularly interesting that his aggressive behaviour
was spontaneous, with no explicit reinforcements or encouragement.
o This finding ran counter to the pure behaviourist ideas which were
very influential at the time which would suggest that learning of a
behaviour would only occur with explicit reinforcement.
o In a follow-up to Bandura’s famous study, children still attacked a real
person with kicks, punches and toy hammers that were in the room.
When it is the end of an okay performance and people start to applaud the
performer. Then one by one the crowd starts to stand. You think this is
ridiculous because the performance was okay. But nonetheless there you are
standing with everyone else. It’s difficult to be the only one sitting down
o This is called conformity
In the 1930s, Muzafer Sherif conducted a series of very clever experiments
on conformity using a perceptual illusion called autokinetic illusion.
o You are in a black room looking at a small dot of light at the front of
the room and its your job to see how much it moves
On the first day you go through several tests and report the
light moves a mean of 5 cm. actually the light is not moving at
all and this is due to the optical illusion effect.
On the second day 2 individuals are in the room with you and
you compared on how much you thought the dot moved. They
thought the dot moved between 10 to 20 cm
Over several days of testing your responses will gradually
converge despite the different starting points. This is an
example of norm formation.
Norm formation is a powerful effect that can be further
manipulated by the experimenter
Solomon Asch had subjects seated in a room with a group of other
individuals completing an experiment where they would see a simple line and three comparison lines and they would have to identify which line
matches the standard
o Once the subjects settles into the flow of the experiment, one by one,
the confederates start agreeing on clearly incorrect answers.
o On average 37% of all responses conformed to a clearly incorrect
o 75% of subjects conformed to an incorrect answer on at least one trial
Normative function: the role of others in setting norms or standards.
o The normative function of the group sets these standards because you
fear rejection or ostracism by others for not conforming. The
normative function guides you to dress similarities to the rest of
society and behave in certain ways because not doing so will lead to
negative social consequence.
Comparative function: the role of others in providing information about an
Deutsch and Asch’s lad setting each subject was seated in a separate cubicle
where they could neither see nor hear the other subjects.
o Consider that the normative function would paly no role and is no
reason for the subject to go along with the wrong answer solely to
avoid ridicule and rejection.
o Subjects went along with the wrong answer
o Subjects conformed primarily on trials where the correct answer was
Conformity is maintained through the normative function because of social
pressure and the fear of rejection and through the comparative function by
providing group information in an uncertain situation.
James Stoner began a study to examine the “real shift” effect. Stoner tested
he idea that groups were more cautious then individuals by asking them the
read a set of hypothetical situations and make risk assessments.
o Helen is a writer with considerable creative talent and is making
comfortable living writing cheap westerns. She came up with a idea
for a potentially different novel. She is worried that the novel might be
a flop if she can’t get her ideas out and that she would wasted a lot of
time without pay.
You make a personal judgment call then join the others. The
group decisions were on average riskier than the mean
decision of individuals before the group discussion.
o Roger is thinking about selling his life insurance policy in a stock that
he hears will triple in value.
They were more reluctant on him selling it
Group polarization: suggest that decision making in a group tends to lead to
more extreme views by strengthening the original inclinations of the
individual group members. o Helen’s case, the individual; group members likely started with a risky
position and when they got together, their consensus was an even
more risky position.
Group polarization is supported by a number of experiments which
demonstrate that group decisions making seems to enhance national pride,
negative racial and financial attitudes and financial attitudes and decision
making in juries.
The titanic got several warnings that they are going toward icebergs and 4 of
them reached the captain. They still moved on and the titanic crashed.
Groupthink: a group decision making environment that occurs when group
cohesiveness becomes so strong it overrides realistic appraisals of reality
and alternative opinions.
o Individuals in these groups often censor dissenting opinions and
those who disagree are rejected from the group.
o Groups falling into groupthink tend to overestimate their might and
The Bystander Effect:
In 1960 there was a widely publicized murder. Kitty Genovese was killed
outside her apartment after being stabbed and lying there for 30 minutes.
o The major reason that it made the headlines is because there were 38
people witnessing the crime from the apartment windows and didn’t
o One of the fears that the bystanders didn’t help her was because of
o The reason the police didn’t show up was because they thought that
someone else called them and they didn’t think it was necessary to
There are 2 key decisions that must take place before an individual acts…
o First, an individual must decide whether the situation is truly an
o Secondly, whether this situation requires them to personally respond.
If yes for both equals respond
If no for either 1 then no response.
Lateen and Darley (for the first question) did an experiment and had people
do a questionnaire either alone or with a group. Smoke will appear and
recorded the reaction time on people to tell someone about it.
o The people that were alone were most likely to report the smoke and
did so very quickly
o As people in the group increased the likelihood that any one subject
would report the smoke decreased
o Collective Ignorance: when each individual in a group sees nobody
responding in a given situation, they conclude that the situation is not
an emergency Lateen and Darley (for the second question) did an experiment with a
subject that was asked to participate in a group discussion. They would be in