Social influence involves the exercise of social power by a person or group to change the attitudes or behavior of others in a particular direction.
Social power refers to the force available to the influencer to motivate this change
Types of social influence.
Compliance is publicly acting in accord with a direct request, whether or not one privately agrees with the request.
Obedience is the performance of an action in response to a direct order.
Conformity is yielding to perceived group pressure.
II. Classic Conformity Research
Sherif's norm development research analyzed conformity to an ambiguous reality.
Subjects in a darkened room looking at a point of light believed the light began to move (the autokinetic effect).
When individuals discussed their estimate of the movement of light with each other, they converged on a common standard or norm.
Although the data indicate that influence was present, subjects denied that they were influenced by others.
The more uncertain subjects were about reality, the more they were influenced by others, especially confident others.
Norms, once established by the group, were used by participants even when they were alone.
Asch's line judgment research analyzed conformity to a unanimous majority.
When asked to judge line length alone, subjects were very accurate, but when confederates made an obviously incorrect judgment, subjects tended to comply.
Faced with the choice of admitting compliance with group standards and proving that agreement with the standard was forced by the facts, almost everyone attempts to reconstruct the facts.
Conformity can be caused by both normative and informational social influence.
Normative social influence occurs when a person conforms, complies, or obeys in order to gain rewards or avoid punishments from another group or person.
Informational social influence occurs when the individual looks to another person or group to gain accurate information.
Schacter's "Johnny Rocco" study investigated behavior and eventual rejection of the nonconformist.
At first, the group directs a lot of attention and communication toward the deviate.
Once it is clear that the deviate will not comply, communication toward the deviate drops sharply, and the deviate may be excluded from the group.
III. Factors That Influence Conformity
Situational factors that influence conformity are group size, cohesiveness, and social support.
Group size: conformity is near its peak when 3-4 members agree, with no further increase in effect up to 15.
Group cohesiveness and topic relevance: cohesive groups engender more conformity than noncohesive groups. When the topic is of high relevance to the group, the social pressure brought to bear on the deviate is higher than when the topic is of low relevance.
Social support: when the majority is not unanimous, conformity drops dramatically.
A number of personal factors influence conformity.
Self-awareness and conformity: being publicly self-aware increases conformity, whereas being privately self-aware decreases conformity.
Self-presentation and conformity: conformity is most likely to occur when self-presenters are alone with those trying to influence them and when the conformity will be viewed as indicating intelligence or open-mindedness.
The need for individuation (the desire to maintain one's uniqueness or individuality): sometimes people do not comply in order to feel different from others.
The desire for personal control. The theory of psychological reactance states that people believe they possess specific behavioral freedoms and that they will react against and resist attempts to limit this sense of freedom.
Gender and conformity. In general, there are few if any gender differences in conformity.
Individualists and collectivists differ in their conformity patterns.
People from collectivist cultures tend to be more conforming to their own group than are individualists, but are less likely to be affected by social influence from outgroup members.
Under certain conditions, the minority can influence the majority.
The most important factor in determining the effectiveness of minority group influence is the style of behavior of the minority. Minorities are most effective when they are consistent and confident in their position, argue in the same direction as evolving cultural norms, and differ from the majority only in terms of their beliefs.
Minority influence can cause divergent thinking, leading people to consider a variety of possible explanations or novel solutions to problems.
Conformity is sometimes automatically activated.
Infants will mimic their mothers' facial expressions.
Among adults, mimicry promotes social smoothness in interactions.
Three factors that foster compliance are positive moods, reciprocity, and giving reasons.
People are more likely to comply when they are in a good mood, especially if the request is prosocial in nature.
The norm of reciprocity states that people should return a favor or a good deed, and is a powerful influence across cultures.
Giving reasons, regardless of the merit of the reasons, appears to generate "mindless" compliance.
Various two-step compliance strategies are effective for different reasons.
Foot-in-the-Door: a two-step compliance strategy in which the persuader secures compliance with a small request and then follows it up later with a larger, less desirable request.
Door-in-the-Face: a two-step compliance technique in which the persuader makes a very large request that is almost certain to be refused, and then follows it up with a less costly request.
That's-Not-All: a two-step compliance technique in which the persuader makes a large request, but then immediately follows with a discount or bonus that makes the request more reasonable.
Low-Balling: a compliance technique in which the persuader secures agreement with a request by understating the true cost of the request.
Milgram's research suggests that obeying destructive commands is more the rule than the exception.
Sixty-five percent of participants obeyed the instructions of the experimenter throughout the experiment, despite purported harm to their partners and considerable emotional distress on their own parts.
Similar findings obtained in different countries, in different settings, and with different subject pools, leading to the conclusion that the situation, not some aberrant feature of the participants, was the direct cause of the results.
Some situational features did affect obedience rates:
whether the confederate experimenter was a labeled "researcher" or was just an "ordinary person,"
the psychological distance from the experimenter,
the psychological distance from the victim, and
the presence of confederates modeling defiance.
Orders to inflict psychological harm on victims is also likely to be obeyed.
When the administered harm was psychological rather than physical, the majority of participants still obeyed experimental instructions to continue inflicting harm.