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Chapter 9

PSY220H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Social Influence, Meta-Analysis, Collectivism

Course Code
Heather V.Fritzley

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PSY220: Chapter 9 Social Influence (Lecture 6)
Social influence: efforts by one or more individuals to change the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, or behaviours
of one or more others (a common feature of everyday life)
Conformity: a type of social influence in which individuals change their attitudes or behaviour to
adhere to existing social norms
Compliance: a form of social influence involving direct requests from one person to another (direct
Obedience: social influence in which one person demands/orders others to do what they want
Social norms: rules indicating how individuals are expected to behave in specific situations
This often results in pressure to conform, resulting in powerful effects on our behaviour
Injunctive norms: the kind that tell us what we should do
Descriptive norms: Norms that indicate what most people do in a situation
Some social norms are explicit and detailed, while some are implicit, unspoken and have developed in
an informal manner
Most people obey these norms, most of the time
Without conformity we would find ourselves facing social chaos (where everyone would be doing everything
at the same time)
Conducted one of the first social psychological experiments on social influence
Participants were seated by themselves in a dark room, and after a short period of time were exposed
to a single point of light 5m in front of them.
This point of light, under dark conditions, would move erratically an illusion known as the autokinetic
effect, which stems from the fact our eyes make tiny, involuntary saccades.
After participants experienced the effect, they were asked to report how much they believed the light
has moved which ranged from a few inches to feet
When they were by themselves, they had individual norms of how much the light moved ~ 2-6
The next day when the participant came back, they were faced with a group. On that day and
subsequent days, the participants’ estimates eventually converged to a group norm.
The participants were asked if they were influenced by the presence of others and most said no
Criticism: the task was too ambiguous (because the light didn’t actually move, any reasonable estimate
would be fine)
In his research, Asch asked participants to respond to a series of simple perceptual problems, in which there is
obviously a correct answer.
On each problem, participants indicated which of the three
comparison lines matched the standard line in length
Several other individuals (6-8) were present, but
were confederates [assistants acting as
On occasions known as critical trials (12 out of 18),
the accomplices gave the wrong answer, and
unanimously chose the wrong line to match

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Across several different studies, 76% of the participants went with the groups’ false answers at least once
Voiced agreement about 37% of the time
In the control situation, only 5% made the error alone
24% of participants never yielded to group pressure while the other group went along with the
majority (even if they thought the others were under an ‘illusion’)
What about shattering the unanimous nature
In another study, one confederate would break this confederate would give the ‘right’ answer
In one other study one confederate would give the answer between the group answer and the right
Another study one confederate would give the most incorrect answer possible
Results: conformity was reduced under all three conditions
The reduction was the greatest in the condition which the confederate expressed views more
extreme/wrong than the majority
Unanimity of a group is crucial for conformity once it is broken it is easier to resist
Also Asch performed another experiment in which participants wrote down their answers instead of saying
them out
This dropped conformity dramatically this reflects that we follow social norms but even if we don’t
really believe in them
Public conformity: when individuals do or say what others around them do or say
Private acceptance: when individuals actually feel or think as others do around them; also known as
Conformity does not occur to equal degree in all settings
Cohesiveness and Conformity
Cohesiveness: refers to all the factors that bind group members together into a social entity
When cohesiveness is high, pressure towards conformity are magnified
When cohesiveness is low, pressures toward conformity are low
Conformity and Group Size
Conformity increased with group size but only up until 3 members; beyond this, levels of
conformity level off or decrease [Early research]
[Later research] Conformity tends to increase with group size from ~3-8 members
Milgram (1969) Had different amounts of people standing on the side walk 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15
These people on the side walk were told to look up and Milgram observed how many
passerbys would also look up, and if group size impacted that influence and the
amount of passerbys that looked up increased only up until 5 members, in which it levels
off or decreases

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Conformity and Culture
Bond & Smith (1996) meta-analysis of 133 studies in 17 countries (line judgment)
Categorized individualistic vs. collectivistic cultures and compared conformity
Overall found that conformity was higher in collectivistic cultures than individualistic
Cultural factors apparently predicted conformity the best of any other factors
Descriptive and Injunctive Social norms
Descriptive norms: ones that describe what most people do in a given situation influence us
by telling us what normally seems effective in the situation
Injunctive norms: specify what ought to be done what is approved or disapproved in a given
In certain situations, esp. with antisocial behaviour, injunctive norms may exert stronger effects
These norms shift attention away from how people are acting, to how they should be
Norms may activate social motive to do what’s right
But why do people sometimes disobey/ignore injunctive norms?
Normative focus theory: norms will influence behaviour only to the extent that they are salient
for the individual involved at the time the behaviour occurs.
Reno, Cialdini & Kallgren (1993) individuals crossing a parking lot encountered an
accomplice walking with them
One condition had the accomplice stop to pick up fast-food litter (control did
When the participant go to their car there were flyers on their windshields. The
people who were reminded that littering was not accepted in society, were less
likely to toss the flyer on the ground as they were reminded of the injunctive
norms against littering
Kalsi (2003) bicultural/multi-group individuals sometimes deal with conflicting norms
and confusion
E.g. Punjabi-Sikh Adolescent women living and going to school in Canada are
conflicted with Canadian school environment of independent & autonomy, with a
Sikh home environment that promotes conformity, group interests and family
Norms seem to influence our actions primarily when they are made salientwhen we do not
think about them or view them as irrelevant, their effects are weaker/nonexistent
Unanimity of the Group more conformity with an unanimous group, even one dissenter results in
decreases of conformity
Public vs. Private Responsesmore conformity when an opinion is public compared to private
Type of SituationEmergency vs. non-emergency; people are more likely to conform in an emergency
Situational norms: norms that guide behaviour in a certain situation or environment
Research findings indicate that you do not need to be aware or the norms for them to be activated
not consciously thinking about it but it will still strongly affect your overt behaviour
Aarts & Dijksterhuis (2003) - had participants look at library or empty rail station
Some participants were told they would be visiting the location later
Instructed to read 10 words out loud from a screen volume of voices was measured
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