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Psychology and Sociology - 1

Psychology and Sociology – Social Influence

 Social Influence is a process whereby attitudes and behaviour are
influences by the real or implied presence of other people.
o Compliance: change in behaviour and expressed attitudes in
response to requests, coercion or group pressure; behaviour only
happens when being watched
o Conformity: When we adhere to or adjust, our thoughts, feelings,
behaviours to be consistent with the standards of a group or
society; internal behaviour, you need to be watched
 Reference group & membership group
 Informational & Normative Influence
o Obedience: Behaviour change produced by the commands of
 Norms are attitudinal and behavioural uniformities that define group
membership and differentiate between groups.
 Reference Group is a group that is psychologically significant for our
behaviour and attitudes.
 Membership Group is a group to which we belong by some objective or
external criteria, e.g. all blond people (we might not want to belong to
that group)
 Informational Influence results from a persons willingness to accept
others opinions about reality (because they think others are correct in
their judgements)
 Normative Influence results from a persons desire to gain approval or
avoid disapproval.
 Conformity bias assumes that conformity is a one-way process in which
individuals conform to the majority only.
Psychology and Sociology - 2

Obedience studies
 People would rather obey than put themselves at risk
 Milgram’s obedience studies
o Using probing sentences (they have a great impact on others)
o Setting: Teacher (participant), Learner, Experimenter
o 65% of males went all the way to 450 volts
o Explanations
 1. Are people in general sadistic? Show extreme distress
 2. Legitimacy of the authority figure (abdicate responsib.)
 3. Novelty of situation and absence of alternative
 4. Proximity of the experimenter and distance to the learner
o What we can learn
 We typically conform
 We don’t always help
 We may harm other in a group or if we are ordered to do so
 HOWEVER, social influence can be challenged by the
presence of a non-conformist (someone who rebels)
o Ethical considerations
 Did not provide full informed consent to participants
 Did not tell them they could withdraw
 Did not honestly debrief them after
Psychology and Sociology - 3

Conformity studies
 “How much did the light move?”
o Alone people have different opinion but, after they join a group,
they conform at some point.
o In a group, people conform to the answer and, after they were
separated, they still conformed to the established group norm.

 Aschs conformity experiment

o “Which line resembles the first on?”
o Conformity is strengthened when:
 You feel incompetent or insecure
 Group of 3+ people
 Admire group status
 Others in group observe your behaviour
 The group is unanimous (all agree)
 Informational influence and Normative influence
o E.g. Dress Code at work, Socially accepted behaviour at work
Psychology and Sociology - 4

Minority Influence and Social Change

 Conformity bias
 Reversing Aschs experiment
o Majority (4) real participants
o Minority (2) confederates
o Minorities can influence majorities only when they are consistent.