PSYC 2120 Lecture Notes - Social Proof, Normative Social Influence, Minority Influence

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PSYC 2120 Chapter 7: Conformity
Conformity: when and why
- Conformity is defined as a change in behaviour as a result of the real or imagined influence of
others.
- Two quotes: “Do as most do, and will speak well of thee”, and “it were not best that we should all
think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races”
- Rather than labelling conformity as good or bad, the social psychologist is interested in
understanding why people conform.
- We found that there are two main reasons people conform: informational and normative social
influences
Informational social influence: The need to know what’s right
- Informational social influence occurs when people do not know the correct (or best) thing to do
or say. This reaction typically occurs in ambiguous, confusing, or crisis situations, where the
definition of the situation is unclear. People look to the behaviour of others as an important
source of information and use it to choose appropriate courses of action for themselves. Experts
are powerful sources of influence, since they typically have the most information about
appropriate responses
- An important feature of informational social influence is that it can lead to private acceptance,
whereby people conform to the behaviour of others because they genuinely believe that these
other people are correct. Public compliance, whereby a person conforms publicly without
necessarily believing in what the group is saying or doing
- Using others as a source of information can backfire, however, as when people panic because
others are doing so. Contagion occurs when emotions and behaviours spread rapidly throughout a
group.
- An example of extreme and misdirected informational social inflectional social influence is mass
psychogenetic illness, the occurrence of similar physical symptoms in a group of people for
which there is no known physical or medical cause
- You can best resist the inappropriate use of others as a source of information by checking the
information you are getting against your internal moral compass
Normative social influence: The need to be accepted
- Normative social influence occurs for a different reason. We change our behaviour to match that
of others not because they seem to know what is going on but because we want to remain a
member of the group, continue to gain the advantages of the group membership, and avoid the
pain of ridicule and rejection
- We conform to group social norms, implicit or explicit rules for acceptable behaviours, values,
and attitudes.
- Normative social influence can occur even in unambiguous situations; people will conform to
others for normative reasons even if they know that what they are doing is wrong.
- Whereas informational influence usually results in private acceptance, which result in public
compliance
- Social impact theory specifies when normative social influence is most likely to occur, by
referring to the strength, immediacy, and number of the group members. We are more likely to
conform when the group is one we care about, when the group members are unanimous in their
thoughts or behaviours, and when the group size is three or more
- Failure to respond to normative social influence can be painful. We can resist inappropriate
normative pressures by talking the time to stop and become aware of what social norms are
operating, by finding an ally, and by gathering idiosyncrasy credits over time from a group
whose membership we value
Minority influence: When the few influence the many
- Minority influence, whereby a minority of group members influence the beliefs and behaviour of
the majority
- In order to influence a majority, minority group members must present their views consistently.
Minorities influence majorities via informational, rather than normative, social influence
Compliance: Requests to change your behaviour
- Another form of social influence is compliance, conforming in response to request from others
- An effective compliance technique is the door in the face technique, where a person starts out
with a big request in order to get people to agree to a second, smaller request. This technique
works because of reciprocity norm; when the requester restarts from the larger to the smaller
request, it puts pressure on people to reciprocate by agreeing to the smaller request
- The foot in the door technique is also effective; here the requester starts out with a very small
request to get people to agree to a larger request.
- Another effective compliance technique is lowballing, in which a person makes a commitment to
an attractive offer. The deal is then changed so that the offer is no longer attractive. Nevertheless,
the person tends to go along with this much less attractive deal
Obedience to authority
- One of the most insidious forms of social influence is obedience. Conforming to the commands
of an authority figure.
- In Milgram’s classic studies of obedience, informational and normative pressures combined to
cause chilling levels of obedience, to the point where a majority of participants administered what
they thought were near lethal shocks to a fellow human being
- The participants were caught in a web of conflicting social norms and were asked to increase the
level of shocks in small increments. After justifying themselves that they had delivered one level
of shock, it was very difficult for people to decide that a slightly higher level of shock was wrong
- Unfortunately, the conditions that produced such extreme antisocial behaviour in Milgram’s
laboratory have been present in real life tragedies, such as the Holocaust in World War II and etc.

Document Summary

Conformity is defined as a change in behaviour as a result of the real or imagined influence of others. Two quotes: do as most do, and will speak well of thee , and it were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races . Rather than labelling conformity as good or bad, the social psychologist is interested in understanding why people conform. We found that there are two main reasons people conform: informational and normative social influences. Informational social influence: the need to know what"s right. Informational social influence occurs when people do not know the correct (or best) thing to do or say. This reaction typically occurs in ambiguous, confusing, or crisis situations, where the definition of the situation is unclear. People look to the behaviour of others as an important source of information and use it to choose appropriate courses of action for themselves.