Conformity (pg 191-229)
• Conformity: a change in behaviour as a result of the real or imagined
influence of other people.
• Implicit social influence: influence caused by increasing the
accessbility of social beliefs in working memory. Occurs typically outside of
• Information social influence: conforming because we believe that
other's interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more correct than ours and will
help us choose an appropriate course of action.
o We see other people as a source of information to guide our
o (e.g. Sherif's dot experiment regarding the autokinetic effect)
• Private acceptance: conforming to other people's behaviour out of a
genuine belief that what they are doing or saying is right. Likely to change long
• Public compliance: conforming to other people's behaviour publicly,
without necessarily believing in what they are doing or saying. May or may not
change behaviour in the long run.
When Will People Conform to Information Social Influence
• When the Situation is Ambiguous:
When you are unsure of a correct response, the appropriate
behaviour, or the right idea you will be most open to influence from others.
o The more uncertain you are the more you will rely on others.
• When the Situation is a Crisis:
o When the situation is a crisis, we usually do not have time to think
and it is natural for us to see how other people are responding.
o Contagion: the rapid transmission of emotion or behaviour
through a crowd.
• When Other People are Experts:
o The more expertise or knowledge a person has, the more valuable
he or she will be as a guide in an ambiguous or crisis situation.
• Mass psychogenic illness: the occurrence of similar physical
symptoms in a group of people for which there is no known physical or medical
cause. (e.g the War of the Worlds broadcast)
Resisting Informational Social Influence
• It is possible to resist illegitimate or inaccurate informational social
• Influences how people define reality. If you conform you see the world
as they do, if you don't then you see the world different from the way they do.
• Look for non-human evidence
• Remember your consistency bias
• If something is wrong, then be the one who speaks out. Normative Social Influence: The Need to be Accepted
• Normative social influence: the influence of other people that leads
us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them.
o Results in public compliance but not necessarily with private
acceptance of the group's beliefs and behaviours.
o Caused by power of social norms, and conformity and social
• Social norms: the implicit or explicit rules a group has for the
acceptable behaviours, values, and beliefs of its members.
Members who don't are seen has different, difficult, and
o Members are expected to conform to these norms.
Conformity and Social Approval: The Asch Line Judgment Studies
• The study when Solomon Asch conducted with confederates and the
actual participant were shown two cards one with one single like and one card
with 3 different lines in different lengths and they were told to choose which line
was closest to the one on the first card.
• Results: 76% of the participants conformed on at least one trial, and on
average people conformed about 1/3 of the 12 trials on which the confederates
gave the wrong answer.
• Normative social influence occurs because people feel negative
emotions such as discomfort and tension, when they stand up for their beliefs and
go against the group.
When Will People Conform to Normative Social Influence?
• Social Impact Theory: the theory that conforming to social influence
depends on the strengths of the group, its immediacy (how close the group to you
in space and time during the influence attempt) , and the number of other people
in the group.
o Conformity will increase as strength and immediacy increase.
o The more important a group is to us the more likely we are to
conform to its normative pressures.
o The number of people however has a different affect, the more
people the less influential each person is.
• When group size is 3 or more:
o Conformity increases as the number of people in the group
increase but only up to a point.
Conformity pressures generally increase as the size of the
• When the group is Important:
o Groups to which we are highly attracted and with which we
strongly identify will exert more normative influence on us than groups to
which we have little or not attachment.
o When we are attracted to a group and are reminded that we don't
quite fit in we are especially motivated to conform.
• When the group is unanimous:
o Normative social influence is most powerfully felt when everyone
in the group says or believes the same thing. o You are less likely to conform if another person in the group
disagrees with the norm.
• Gender Differences in Conformity:
o Found on average men are less easily influenced than women but
the size of the difference is very small.
o Gender differences are most likely to be found in group-pressure
situations where an audience can directly observe how much you conform; in
this case women are more likely to conform
• This could be because of the social roles men