Ch. 8- Social Influence
Social norms means unspoken but shared rules of conduct within a particular formal or informal
Conformity means changing our opinions or behaviors to meet perceived group norms, can occur
because people fear the consequences of deviating from the norm.
Compliance means behavior that is elicited by direct requests
Obedience means behavior that produced by the commands of authority figures.
We often see our own behavior as different from other people’s behavior and as caused by
Social norms influence your values, beliefs, and behaviors.
Social psychologists distinguish between two kinds of social norms:
Descriptive norms describe how people behave in a given situation;
Injunctive norms describe what people ought to do in a given situation, meaning the type
of behavior that is approved of in the situation.
Norms often influence our attitudes and behavior in very subtle ways.
People quickly acquire the norms of a new environment even if they don’t know them when
they first enter the environment
People are most likely to acquire norms when they’re in new situations.
People seem largely unaware of the impact of social influence.
Although people are generally motivated to adhere to the norms of their group, at times they
make errors in perceiving these norms.
Pluralistic ignorance refers to a misperception that occurs when each individual in the group
privately rejects a group’s norms but believes that the other members of the group accept these
Unfortunately, misperceiving the social norms of one’s environment can have substantial
The pressure to conform to social norms is often very powerful, in part because people who
deviate from the norm often experience negative consequences such as embarrassment,
awkwardness, and even hostile behavior from others.
Because of the unpleasant consequences of deviating from the norm, we’re motivated to learn
and adhere to the norms of our group.
Even watching someone else experience rejection can lead to greater conformity (e.g.,
In some cases people’s desire to conform to social norms can also result in more positive
Giving people accurate information about various norms can reduce misperceptions and
thereby improve health.
Conformity can be produced by two distinct types of influence: Informational influence refers to influence that leads a person to conform to behavior of others
because the person believes that the others are correct in their judgments and the person also
wants to be correct
The type of influence might occur when you’re new to a situation and therefore look to
others for accurate information (e.g., if you’re trying to decide what course to take next
semester, you might ask students in their third or fourth year for their thoughts about a
Private conformity, where people change their private view and thereby conform to the group
norm because they believe that others are right.
Norms develop within a group and, in the absence of other influences, they are resistant
or slow to change.
Group norms continue to influence group members long after those who instigated the
norm are gone.
Normative influence describes influence that produces conformity when a person fears the
negative social consequences of appearing deviant.
Public conformity means when people conform because they want to publicly agree
with others, even though in reality, they realize that their answer is correct.
Larger groups exert a more powerful influence.
Group size was much more important when the influence was normative rather than
People who held a minority opinion expressed their views less quickly than those expressing a
Social impact theory refers to the theory that people we are close to have more impact on us than
people who is more distant (e.g., university student conform to the norms of your university and
decreasingly conform to the norms of your high school).
We conform more in the presence of powerful and vocal group members;
We conform more in groups that are attractive to us (i.e., when we want to feel as if we
The single biggest predictor of conformity is whether a participant must take the lone deviant
position, meaning to stand alone.
If the person who deviates seems to be incompetent, having anyone else stand up to the
majority decreases conformity.
Demographic variables, such as age and gender, also influence conformity.
Conformity is highest in adolescence, when there is real pressure to fit in, and lower in
children and older adults.
Women are more likely than men to agree with others in group decision-making tasks, and are
less likely than men to dissent from the group.
Both men and women are particularly likely to conform in unfamiliar situations. People with more masculine gender roles, regardless of their gender, conform less than people
with more feminine gender roles.
Men are often focused on demonstrating their independence from others, whereas women are
often focused on fostering cooperation in their interactions.
Women tend to be more influenced by face-to-face persuasion attempts than by email
Men show no differences in how they respond to these two distinct types of communication.
Another factor that can influence conformity is task importance: on easy tasks people don’t
need to look to group members for the answer, whereas on harder tasks they may feel less
sure about their answer.
Interestingly, social motives seem to influence conformity in different ways fro men and
Both men and women who imagined the anxiety-provoking scene showed greater
For women, imagining a romantic situation increased conformity, but for men, imagining
this scene led to lower levels of conformity.
Minority influence is a process in which a small number of people in a group lead an overall
change in the group’s attitude or behavior.
One factor that inc