Q4L01 - Social influence and conformity
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Q4L01 - Social influence and conformity






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  • people need to be certain and confident that what they are doing, thinking or feeling is correct and appropriate

Q4L01 - Social influence and conformity Q4L01 - Social influence and conformity Presentation Transcript

  • Process hereby attitudes and behaviour are influenced by the real or implied presence of other people.
  • Social Life
    Characterised by norms
    ‘Normative social similarities and differences between people’
    Examine: how people construct norms, how they conform to or are regulated by those norms, and how those norms change.
  • Deep-seated, private and enduring change in behaviour and attitudes due to group pressure.
  • Social Influence via Conformity
    Social influence can operate through conformity to social or group norms.
    Premise: people need reassurance!
    Sherif (1936) argued that people use the behaviour of others to establish the range of possible behaviour: frame of reference.
    Average positions > correct than fringe positions = people tend to adopt them.
    Testing idea… AUTOKINESIS!
  • Sherif’sAutokinesis experiment
    Autokinesis is an optical illusion where a fixed pinpoint of light in a completely dark room appears to move: movement is actually caused by eye movement in the absence of a physical frame of reference.
    Experiment: people asked to estimate how much the light moves over a series of 100 trials.
    Experiment A: participants started alone before taking turns to call out their estimates in groups of two or three.
    Experiment B: participants started in groups before making their own estimates alone.
  • Results:
  • Asch (1952)
    Argued that if the object of judgment was entirely unambiguous, then people would remain independent of group influence.
    Experiment: Participants thought they were performing a visual discrimination task and took turns in a fixed order to call out publicly which of three comparison lines was the same length as a standard line.
    In reality, only one person was the true participants and answered second last. Others were confederates instructed to give erroneous responses.
  • Results
    Average conformity rate was 33%.
    All reported uncertainty and self-doubt as a result of the disagreement between themselves and the group.
    Evolved into self-consciousness, fear of disapproval and feelings of anxiety and even loneliness.
    Most knew they saw things differently from the group, but felt their perception may have been inaccurate and the group to be correct.
    Others did not believe the group was correct, but did not want to stand out.
    Small minority saw the lines as the group claimed.
    Independents were: entirely confident or emotionally affected but guided by a belief in individualism or in doing the task as directed.
  • Who conforms?
  • Characteristics
    Low self-esteem
    High need for social support or approval
    Need for self-control
    Low IQ
    High anxiety
    Feelings of self-blame and insecurity in the group
    Feelings of inferiority
  • Cultural Differences
  • Smith, Bond and Kagitcibasi (2006)
    Surveyed conformity studies that used Asch’s paradigm/variant.
    Level of conformity ranged from 14% among Belgian students (Doms, 1983) to a high of 58% among Indian teachers in Fiji (Chandra, 1973).
    Conformity was lower among participants from individualist cultures in North America and north-western Europe (25.3%) than collectivist cultures in Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America (37.1%)
  • Situational factors in conformity
  • Two major factors
    Group size
    Group unanimity
  • Group size - Asch (1952)
    Found that as the unanimous group increased from one person to two, three, four, eight, ten and fifteen, the conformity rate increased and then decreased: 3, 13, 33, 35, 32, 31 per cent.
    Findings suggest conformity reaches its full strength with a 3-5 person majority and additional members have little effect.
  • Unanimity
    Conformity is greatly reduced if the majority is not unanimous.
    Asch found that a correct supporter reduced conformity from 33 to 5.5 per cent.
    Any lack of unanimity seems to be effective.
    Asch found that a non-conformist who was even more wildly incorrect than the majority was equally effective.
  • Processes of conformity
  • Three main processes
    Informational influence
    Normative influence
    Referent informational influence
  • Informational influence
    An influence to accept information from another as evidence about reality.
    Comes into play when people are uncertain, either because the stimuli is ambiguous or because there is social disagreement.
    Probably partially responsible for the autokinesic study because reality was ambiguous.
  • Normative influence
    An influence to conform with the positive expectation of others to gain social approval or to avoid social disapproval.
    Comes into play when the group is perceived to have the power and ability to mediate rewards and punishment based on our behaviour
    An important precondition is that one believes one is under surveillance by the group.
    Creates surface compliance in public settings rather than true enduring cognitive change.
    Principal cause of conformity in the Asch experiment.
  • Referent Informational Influence
    Pressure to conform with a group norm that defines oneself as a group member.
    Comes from social identity theory.
    People conform because they are group members, not to validate physical reality or to avoid social disapproval.
    People do not conform to other people but to a NORM: other people act as a source of information about the appropriate ingroup norm.
    Because the norm is an internalised representation, people can conform to it in the absence of surveillance.
  • Moscovici (1976, 1985)
    Believed that there are three social influence modalities that define how people respond to social conflict:
    Conformity – e.g. Asch
    Normalisation– compromise leading to convergence. E.g. Autokinesis
    Innovation – a minority creates conflict in order to influence the majority
  • Minority Influence
    Often such influence is based (in the case of individuals) on leadership or (in the case of subgroups) legitimate power.
    Without minority influence, social change would be very difficult to explain. E.g. Anti-war rallies, suffragettes, Greenpeace.
    Important questions here are whether minorities and majorities gain influence via different social practices and whether the underlying psychology is different.
  • Criticism: Conformity bias
    Tendency for social psychology to treat group influences as a one way process in which individuals or minorities always conform to majorities.
    Moscovici and Faucheux (1972) suggested that Asch’s studies had actually been studies of minority influence, not majority influence.
    In reality, Asch’s lone participant was a member of a large majority confronted by a small minority, therefore, participants were influenced by a minority, and those who remained ‘independent’ can be considered to be the conformists!
  • Behavioural style and the genetic model
    Moscovici (1976) called it a ‘genetic’ model because it focused on how social conflict can generate (are genetic of) social change.
    To create change, active minorities go out of their way to create conflict.
    People are motivated to avoid or resolve conflict.
    Common resolution: dismiss or discredit the minority.
    Amount of influence minority has depends on behavioural style.
  • Behavioural style factors
    Consistency among the minority in their behaviour across time and context. MOST IMPORTANT BEHAVIOURAL STYLE!
    Show investment in its position by making sacrifices
    Show autonomy by acting out of principle rather than from ulterior motives.
    Mugny(1982) extended the behavioural styles and argued that minorities are usually in powerless positions and must negotiate their influence with the majority.
    Argued that a rigid minority risks being rejected as dogmatic but if they are too flexible, they risk being rejected as inconsistent.
    Fine line – but degree of flexibility is more effective than rigidity.
  • Conversion theory
    Dominant explanation of minority influence.
    More cognitive focused of how a member of the majority process the minority’s message.
    Majority influence  public compliance  accepted views with little cognitive processing
    Minority influence  private change  validation process  degree of private internal attitude change = conversion effect.
  • Social identity and self-categorisation
    From this perspective, minorities should be extremely ineffective sources of influence.
    According to David and Turner (2001), the key to effective minority influence is for the minority to somehow make the majority shift its level of social comparison to a genuine shared group.
    Research confirms that minorities do exert more influence if they are perceived by the majority as an ingroup.
  • Social Impact theory
    Social influence depends upon numbers, strength and immediacy (impact).
    Latane and Wolf (1981) argued that > sources = > influence BUT as the cumulative source >, the impact of each additional source <.
    Light analogy!
    Link to minorities?
    Effect of a large majority on an individual majority member has reached a plateau: additional members = little impact.
    BUT, minority viewpoint not attained a plateau: additional members = relatively large impact.
  • Summary
    Group norms are enormously powerful sources of conformity.
    People use the behaviour of others to establish the range of possible behaviour to form a frame of reference.
    Conformity process can be influenced by ambiguous situations (autokinesis) as well as unambiguous situations (Asch).
    Those who conform tend to have low self-esteem, high need for social support, approval and self control, low IQ, high anxiety, feelings of self-blame and insecurity in the group and inferiority.
    Group size and unanimity are the two most important situational factors in conformity.
    Three main processes of conformity: Informational influence (desire to be correct), Normative influence (desire for social approval), Referent informational influence (look into in-groups for norms).
    Three responses to social conflict: conformity (assimilate), normalisation (compromise), innovation (conflict).
    Theories of minority influences: behavioural style and genetic model (consistency, investment, autonomy), conversion theory (cognitive change), social identity and self-categorisation (comparison shift to shared outgroup), social impact theory (plateau effect).