Chapter Nine: Social Influence
What is social influence?
Refers to the many ways that people affect one another. Involves changes in
attitudes and behaviors that result from the comments, actions or even the
presence of others.
Conformity is changing one’s behaviors or beliefs in response to some real or
imagined pressure from others.
Compliance is responding favorably to an explicit request by another person.
Obedience occurs when the power relationship is unequal and the more powerful
person issues a command rather than a request, to which the less powerful
Tends to have a negative connotation but in most situations conformity
tendencies are good.
We tend to subconsciously mimic others behaviors.
Why do we mimic?
1. William James’ ideomotor action or merely thinking about a behavior
makes its actual performance more likely. The region of the brain
responsible for perception overlap with those responsible for action.
2. To prepare for interaction with the other person, interaction is likely to go
more smoothly if we establish some rapport.
People tend to lie those who mimic them more than those who do not.
Cultural differences in mimicry:
Cultures differ in how much they expect mimicry in social interactions and in
how much they are thrown off when the people they interact with fail to mimic
Example, a Hispanic performed better in a job interview when the
interviewer mirrored his actions
Informational social influence and Sherif’s conformity experiment:
Sherif was interested in how groups influence the behavior of individuals by
shaping how reality is perceived. Examined the circumstances in which people
serve as a social frame of reference.
Setup: stationary point of light in a completely dark environment is
He put individuals in a darkened room, presented the stationary point of
light and had them estimate how far the light “moved” each trial.
Results: people thought the light had moved from 2-8 inches. Informational social influence is the use of other people’s comments and
actions as a source of information about what is likely to be right.
Normative social influence and Asch’s conformity experiment:
Asch predicted that when there is a clear conflict between a person’s own
judgment and the judgments advanced by the group, there will be far less
conformity than that observed by Sherif.
Experiment involved people sitting around a table and juking out of three
lines which was the longest or shortest. ¾ of participants conformed when
the other members of the group purposely gave the wrong answer.
Normative social influence is the desire to avoid the disapproval, criticism,
or ostracism that other people might deliver.
Factors affecting conformity pressure:
Conformity increases when the size of the group increases, but only with
groups of three or four, then the level of conformity levels off
The presence of an ally weakens both types of conformity. The breaking of
unanimity opens up the possibility of free thinking and makes us more tolerable
of outlandish outbursts like “The Holocaust never happened.”
Expertise and status,
Expertise affects informational social influence and status affects normative
social influence. Overall, status and expertise does play a monumental role in
Torrance gave a math problem to a Navy pilot, navigator and a gunmen.
As a group they had to come up with one answer. When the pilot (highest
ranked) gave the right answer they reported it 91% of the time, the
navigator 80% of the time and the low ranked gunmen 63% of the time.
This shows the power of the person with the highest status.
Interdependent nations are more likely to conform than independent nations.
Tight versus loose cultures:
Tight cultures have very strong norms regarding how people should behave and
do not tolerate departure from those norms. Tend to have autocratic or
dictatorial governments, punish dissent, have sharp controls on the media, more
laws and inflict more punishment on those who disobey the laws. If a nation was
tight on one aspect it tended to be tight on all. (South Korea, China, Austria,
Japan, Portugal, Britain, Turkey, Italy). Loose cultures have less strong norms
and their members tolerate more deviance. (Greece, Hungary, Israel,
Netherlands, Ukraine, New Zealand and Brazil). Gender,
Women conform slightly more than men.
Difficulty or ambiguity of the task,
When the “right” thing to do is unclear, people are particularly inclined to rely on
others for guidance.
Internalization is our private acceptance of the position advanced by the
The influence of minority opinion on the majority:
The minority opinion can influence the majority more often than thought.
Obedience to authority:
The setup of the Milgram experiments,
Shock experiments, 66% of participants administered the highest shock,
450 volts when the learner pounded on the walls to stop. – 62.5% of
participants administered the highest shock even when the learner
pleaded, cried that he heard a heart condition and ultimately fell silent.
Dealt with forces of wanting to continue on since they agreed to participate, they
were chosen to participate, they had already been paid, they wanted to help
advance science, they did not want to cause a scene by leaving and they did not
want to face being disliked and getting disapproval. VS. forces of dealing with
potentially harming an innocent person, having to be in the learner’s position
next, having to walk out with learner and maybe face retaliation, the learner’s
death, maybe a lawsuit?
Tuning in the learner,
Remote-feedback the teacher (administering the shocks) could neither see
nor hear the learner (except for the pounding on the wall)
Voice-feedback the learner was still not in view; but he and his vigorous
protests were clearly audibl