PSY 220 CH.9
• Social influence can be seen in things like the surge in tattoos.
• Social influence can be explicit or implicit.
What is Social Influence?
• Social influence: The many ways that people affect one another, including changes in
attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and behaviour that result from the comments, actions, or even
the mere presence of others.
• Conformity: Changing one’s behaviour or beliefs in response to explicit or implicit
pressure (whether real or imagined) from others.
• Conformity is the most familiar of the social influences. Others include compliance and
obedience. Conformity can become compliance when the social influence is explicit.
• Compliance: Responding favourably to an explicit request by another person.
• Obedience: In an unequal power relationship, submitting to the demands of the more
• Conformity can be good, bad, or neither.
• Evolutionary psychologists have argued that the tendency to conform can be beneficial.
We are often well served to do what others are doing in the same situation, unless we
have a good reason not to.
• We sometimes mindlessly imitate others’behaviours.
• Study: Students took part in 2 sessions along with a confederate. They were told to
describe various popular magazines. While doing so, the confederate rubbed their face or
shook their leg. Tapings of the participants only were looked at. It was found that
participants often mimicked the behaviour of the confederate by spending more time
shaking their leg than rubbing their face.
• Mimicry is stronger when there is a relationship among the individuals.
Why Do We Mimic?
• Ideomotor action: The phenomenon whereby merely thinking about a behaviour makes
its actual performance more likely.
• Appear to be 2 reasons as to why we mindlessly copy others. One is based on the
principles of ideomotor action. The second reason we reflexively mimic others is to
prepare for interaction with them, interaction that is likely to go smoothly if we establish
• Ideomotor action is based on the fact that the regions responsible for perception overlap
with those responsible for action. Therefore when we see others’behaviours, the idea of
the behaviour is brought to mind and makes us more likely to do it.
• Recall elderly study where participants walked slower after thinking of the elderly.
• We often only mimic behaviours from people or groups from whom we think positively. • Studies have found that people like those who mimic their behaviour better than those
who do not.
Cultural Differences in Mimicry
• Cultures differ in how much they expect mimicry in social interactions and how much
they are thrown off when people they interact with fail to mimic them.
Informational Social Influence and Sherif’s Conformity Experiment
• Sherif was interested in how groups influence the behaviour of individuals by shaping
how reality is perceived. Sherif’s experiment was built around the illusion that a
stationary point of light in a darkened room appeared to be moving. Put participants in
the room and asked how far the light moved. Then put a group of participants in the room
to estimate the movement. What resulted was convergence of values that persisted after
the group had dissociated.
• Informational social influence: The influence of other people that results from taking
their comments or actions as a source of information about what is correct, proper, or
• Information from others is more valued in a novel situation.
Normative Social Influence andAsch’s Conformity Experiment
• Asch predicted that when in clear conflict between a person’s own judgement and the
judgement advanced by the group, there will be far less conformity than that observed by
• While he was right, there was less conformity, but what was striking was how often
conformity did occur. Three lines experiment, which is longer. 1/3 conformed to the
obviously wrong answer of the group.
• Normative social influence: The influence of other people that comes from the
individual’s desire to avoid their disapproval, harsh judgements, and other social
sanctions (for ex., barbs, ostracism).
Factors Affecting Conformity Pressure
• Both informational and normative social influences have proved to be powerful forces: as
either source of influence intensifies, so does the rate of conformity.
• Conformity increases as the size increases. But there is a plateau at about 3-4 people.
• If someone in theAsch experiment strayed from the group norm, the rate of conformity
dropped to 5% for the participant.
• Whether the deviation from the group’s consensus was the correct answer or not, it still
led to less conformity for the participant.
Expertise and Status
• The expertise and status of the group members powerfully influence the rate of
• Expertise primarily affects informational social influence. Status mainly affects
normative social influence.
Culture • People in interdependent cultures are much more concerned with how they are perceived
by others, and therefore are more susceptible to both informational social influence and
normative social influence.
Tight versus Loose Cultures
• Some cultures (tight cultures) have very strong norms regarding how people should
behave and do not tolerate departure from those norms.
• Some other cultures (loose cultures) have norms that are not so strong, and their members
tolerate more deviance.
• Tight cultures are more likely to have autocratic or doctoral governments, to punish
dissent, to have control over media, to have higher levels of observation and laws, and to
inflict more punishment for disobeying laws. (India, Germany, South Korea, Japan,
Austria, etc.) Loose countries are the opposite. (Greece, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand,
• Women are raised to value interdependence more so than men are. Though people are
more likely to conform if they are confused.And if women are taught to attend to
relationships, and hence are more likely to be the ‘experts’on human relationships, their
greater sophistication about relationships may give them the confidence necessary to
resist the influence of the majority.
• Overall, women tend to conform only slightly more than man. They tend to conform
more in stereotypically male domains, and men tend to conform in stereotypically female
Difficulty (or Ambiguity) of the Task
• When the task is unambiguous and easy, informational social influence is virtually
eliminated. The resistance to the group will be stronger.
• Internalization: Private acceptance of a proposition, orientation, or ideology.
• Ability to respond anonymously eliminates normative social influence.
The Interpretive Context of Disagreement
• Knowing why our opinions are different lessens both informational and normative social
• It is difficult to act independently when we don’t know what to make of things.
The Influence of Minority Opinion on the Majority
• Although conformity pressures can be powerful, majority opinion does not always
• Moscovici did a green-blue experiment.Asked to say what colour it was.Almost all
agreed it to be blue. When a minority varied their responses between green and blue, 1%
said it to be green (about the same as controls). When the minority responded with green
consistently, 8% of true participants agreed. When the minority opinion was consistent, it
had both a direct effect on participants’responses in the public setting and a latent effect
on their subsequent, private judgements (shifted where they believed the colour green
ended in the spectrum).
• Minorities have their effect primarily through informational social influence.
Obedience to Authority • Most famous experiment of authority is the Milgram experiment.
The Setup of the Milgram Experiment
• Milgram was intrigued byAsch’s findings. Milgram wondered what would happen if
there was a clear conflict with the self, whichAsch found would lead to conformity.
• Milgram wanted to takeAschs’observations of going against the self to a more
• The remote-feedback version is where the learner is in an adjoining room and could not
be heard except for if he pounded on the wall. 66% went to end in this version. In the
voice-feedback version where participants could hear the learners screams of pain and a
heart condition, as well as silence after a certain point, 62.5% continued til the end.
• Factors influencing the participants to continue: Sense of fair play (agreed to partake in
the experiment and have received compensation already, they felt they had to do work),
an agreement to take part (they had agreed to do it before hand, backing out would go
against that), normative social influence (desire to avoid experimenter disapproval), and
to simply avoid making a scene.
• Factors influencing the participants to terminate: Moral imperative to stop the suffering
of the learner, concern over the learner’s well being (he said he had a heart condition, am
I liable for him?), embarrassment over having to leave with the learner later, and that they
could have easily been in the learner’s position.
Tuning In the Learner
• Milgram tried increasing the forces to terminate the experiment. One way is to make the
learner more prominent.
• Participants responded often by trying to tune out the learner, for example turning away
• Along with the remote-feedback and voice-feedback, is the proximity version. The
learner and teacher were in the same room.Also there is the touch-proximity version,
where the teacher had to place the learner’s hand onto the shock plate.
• As the learner became more and more present or real, obedience diminished.
• Therefore, the more removed we are from others,