PSY205: Part Two - Social Influence (Conformity and Obedience (Classic…
PSY205: Part Two - Social Influence
Conformity and Obedience
Conformity refers to a
change in behaviour or belief as a result of real or imagined group pressure.
Different cultures have different ideas about conformity.
Individualistic cultures do not promote conformity and view conformist negatively
Collectivist culture, view conformity as a sign of tolerance, self-control and maturity.
Refers to conformity that involves publicly acting in accord with an implied or explicit request while privately disagreeing.
i.e. We may comply outwardly either to reap a reward or avoid a punishment even though inwardly, we disagree with it. Hence, it is a conformity that is insincere and outward only
A type of compliance involving acting in accord with a direct order or command.
A type of conformity that involves both acting and believing in accordance with social pressure/persuasion.
For example, you might exercise, as millions do, because you accept that exercise is healthy. You stop at red lights because you accept that not doing so is dangerous.
There are three classic studies of conformity and obedience
Sherif's Norm formation ex.
Asch's conformity ex.
Milgram's obedience ex.
Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience
Milgram’s experiments demonstrated that under optimum conditions, whereby there is a seemingly legitimate figure of authority, a remote victim, and an absence of someone to exemplify disobedience, an extreme form of compliance can occur.
Four features of Milgram’s study design which captures psychological effects which increases compliances:
the amplification of small requests that escalate into large ones
the framing of shock-giving as the social norm for the situation
the opportunity to deny responsibility
the limited time to reflect on the decision.
Day to day example:
Soldiers or employees following questionable orders
Solomon Asch’s studies of group pressure
Asch’s studies of group pressure/conformity found that people conformed, even to minimal pressure.
Participants were given a standard line and a set of comparison lines to compare with. After listening to other people’s answer to the question of which of the comparison lines would match that of the standard line given, a number of the participants conformed.
Day to day example:
Doing as others do; following social trends such as playing with a fidget spinner
Muzafer Sherif’s studies of norm formation
Sherif employed an optical illusion called the autokinetic phenomenon. Self (auto) motion (kinetic).
The apparent movement of a stationary point of light in the dark. The experiments carried out by Sherif shows the power of social influence—how people’s estimates of the supposed movement of a point of light (which was stationary throughout) are influenced by other people’s judgments.
In the broader sense, they show how norms could emerge and perpetuate through subsequent generations.
Day to day example
: Interpreting events differently after hearing from others; appreciating a tasty food that others love
Factors affecting conformity
larger the size
of the group, there is a
for us to go along with the decisions, actions and behaviour of the other group members.
The level of cohesiveness
in a group influences conformity. Cohesiveness refers to the factors that cause group members to remain in the group. One such factor would be how much the individual likes the other group members.
or the degree of attraction that is felt by the individual towards the group
pressure towards conformity is high
When cohesiveness is low, conformity pressures are reduced. This is because we want to gain acceptance of those people that we like and admire and one way of gaining acceptance is to be like them.
Social influence and conformity
Types of Social influence
According to Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard (1955), we conform because of two kinds of influences:
While experiments in conformity may isolate either normative or informational influence, in real life, these two influences
often occur simultaneously.
refers to conformity based on a person’s desire to fulfil others’ expectations, often to gain acceptance. This stems from our
desire to be liked
and accepted by others. To avoid rejection, we tend to conform more in public.
refers to conformity occurring when people accept evidence about reality
provided by other people.
This is tied to our
desire to be right.
Thus, we tend to conform more to difficult decision-making tasks.
i.e. looking out for the longest queue amongst the hawker stalls to judge whcih stalls selss best food.
Predictors of conformity to social norms.
There are three predictors which determine whether someone is prone to conforming to social influence
Culture (Individualistic/ collectivistic)
Whether we are responsive to social influence also depends on the way we have been socialized in our respective cultures.
If we were socialized in individualistic cultures such as the U.S., we’re likely to be less responsive to social influence compared to being raised in collective cultures where cultural values of harmony is significant, hence, people are more responsive to other people’s influences.
Social roles involve social conformity. While different people may interpret their social roles differently, they will still carry out some aspects of the role.
For example, a student would have to show up for exams, turn in papers, and maintain some minimum grade point average
By comparison to the power of situational factors, global personality scores are poor predictors of an individuals’ behaviour but
better predictors of a person’s average behaviour across many situations
Weak connections between personality &
Predicts behaviour when social influences are weak
Resisting social pressure/influence
According to the theory of psychological reactance, any strong threat to
restrict a person’s freedom often lead to reactance
(A motive to protect or restore one’s sense of freedom – maybe viewed as rebellious or counter-conforming)
According to experiments conducted by Synder and Fromkin, people
prefer to see themselves as moderately unique
and to be able assert their individuality. The way we act suggests that we have a motive to preserve our sense of uniqueness and individuality.
However, We are uncomfortable to appear to be too different from others but we are also uncomfortable to be the same as everyone else. In other words, while we want to assert our uniqueness, we do not wish to be greatly deviant.
What is Persuasion
Persuasion is the process by which a message
induces change in beliefs, attitudes or behaviours.
according to the Elaboration likelihood model, there are two routes to persuasion:
Of the two routes to persuasion, central route persuasion is more thoughtful and less superficial, hence, it produces a more enduring attitude change.
The peripheral route
The peripheral route to persuasion occurs when people are
influenced by incidental cues
such as a speaker’s attractiveness.
For example, beer and soft drink advertisements usually take the peripheral route, by using visual images and associating the product with beauty, glamour, pleasure and good feelings.
The central route
The central route to persuasion occurs when interested people focus on the arguments and respond with favourable thoughts.
The stronger the arguments, the more likely persuasion
will take place.
For example, computer and health product advertisements typically take the central route, as they assume that their audience wants to compare features and prices.
Influences of central and peripheral routes
The higher the mastery motivation, the more likely the use of central route
Personal relevance also increases the likelihood of central route.
attentional capacity. The higher the attention the higher the use of central route.
Elements of persuasion
There are four factors/elements that make persuasion effective:
the communicator (who says it?)
the message (what is said)
the channel (how the message is communicated)
the audience (to whom it is said)
2. Message content
Primacy and Recency effect
When two sides of an issue are presented, primacy effect prevails. On the other hand, a time gap separating the presentations results in a recency effect.
suggests that information presented last sometimes has the most influence
suggests that information presented early is most persuasive. Tends to be more common then recency effect.
Content and Mood
While the content of the message itself persuades, associating it with moods can make it more convincing.
In good moods, people often make decisions faster and more impulsively and they tend to rely on peripheral cues.
Fear-arousing feelings are effective for recipients who can take protective action.
REASON VERSUS EMOTION
3. Written vs spoken words
How the message is communicated also play a key role in communication. face-to-face (spoken words) communication is most effective than written communication.
Additionally, the media can be an effective source of influence. I.e. A two-step flow of communication
Two-step flow of communication
The process by which media influence often occurs through opinion leaders, who in turn influence others.
1. Credibility of communicator
To be credible, a communicator should have perceived expertise and perceived trustworthiness.
refers to being knowledgeable and speaking confidently
involves speaking unhesitatingly, talking fast, looking straight in the eye of listeners, and arguing against own self-interest.
A credible communicator, who is also attractive and likable, will likely be successful in persuading.
Noncredible person and sleeper effect
The impact of a noncredible person may correspondingly increase over time if people remember the message better than the reason for discounting it.
This delayed persuasion, after people forget the source or its connection with the message, is called the sleeper effect.
A delayed impact of a message that occurs when an initially discounted message becomes effective, such as we remember the message but forget the reason for discounting it.
it is important to consider the characteristics of the audience such as
self-esteem, age and thoughtfulness.
Life cycle explanation
refers to attitude changes that occur as people get older, for example, they become more
A generational explanation
suggests that older people tend to hold on to the attitudes adopted in younger days.
In brief, the attitudes of young people, those in their teens and early twenties, are changeable. Once formed, these attitudes stabilize through middle adulthood.
Audience and esteem
According to Rhodes and Wood, for a variety of reasons, people with low or high self-esteem are difficult to influence.
Those with moderate self-esteem are the most easily influenced.
Cults: Extreme persuasion
Definition of Cults
A cult can be defined as a group typically characterized by:
Distinctive rituals related to its
to a sub-cultural or even
from the surrounding normative culture
A charismatic leader
Three persuasion strategies
are used in cults that are successful:
Secondly, they apply principles of
. Variables such as communicator, message content, communication channel and audience interact to bring about persuasion.
in like-minded through group influence
First, cults elicit behavioural
commitments through compliance techniques
, for example, the foot-in-the-door phenomenon
To resist persuasion, we can strengthen our personal commitment by making a prior public commitment to our own position.
This can be stimulated by a mild attack on the position, which will
breed resistance to later persuasion
Refers to exposing people to weak attacks upon their attitudes so that when stronger attacks come, they will have refutations available
Example of inoculation
In real-life applications such as smoking prevention and consumer education, inoculation programs have shown encouraging results.
Research has shown that children can be inoculated against peer pressure to smoke and the influence of advertising.
More importantly, to prevent children from joining cults, parents can teach children about various cults and prepare them to counter appeals that are pervasive