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Social Influence. Social Influence Outline. I. Conformity II. Motivation III. Minority influence IV. Obedience to authority. Social Influence. How individual behavior is influenced by other people and groups. I. CONFORMITY. I. Conformity:

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Social Influence Outline

  • I. Conformity

  • II. Motivation

  • III. Minority influence

  • IV. Obedience to authority

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Social Influence

  • How individual behavior is influenced by other people and groups

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  • I. Conformity:

    • Tendency to change our behavior/beliefs in ways that are consistent with group norms

  • Norms: Accepted ways of thinking, feeling, behaving

  • Why do we follow norms?

    • Make life easier

    • Rewards for following norms

    • Internalization of norms

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  • A. Norm of reciprocity

    • When someone provides you with a benefit, it is appropriate for you to return the favor

    • EXAMPLE: Regan (1971)

      • “Coke” study

  • B. Norm of social commitment

    • Keeping our promises and honoring our commitments

  • C. Conforming to group norms

    • Tendency to follow attitudes and behavior of the group

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Why do we conform to the group?

  • 1) Informational influence

    • Look to others for information

  • EXAMPLE: Sherif's (1936) autokinetic effect studies

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It moved about

3.5 inches

Autokinetic effect: the stationary dot of light will seem to move

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Looks like 1 inch

I’d say 2 inches

7.5 inches

What if people make their judgments with others, and state estimates aloud?

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Person A


Person B

Person C

Average distance




Session 1


Session 2


Session 3


Initially, they differ; but over trials, they converge

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Why do we conform to the group?

  • "Do as most do, and [people] will speak well of thee"

    -Thomas Fuller

  • 2) Normative influence

    • We want to be liked, accepted and to fit in

      • We don’t want to look foolish

    • EXAMPLE:

      • Asch’s (1950s) conformity studies

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Asch's (1955) conformity studies

1 2 3

Standard Line

Comparison Lines

Trial 1

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Asch's (1955) conformity studies

1 2 3

Standard Line

Comparison Lines

Trial 2

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Asch's (1955) conformity studies

1 2 3

Standard Line

Comparison Lines

Trial 3

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One subject, six or more confederates

Which line is the same length as the standard?

People reported answers out loud, one at a time

Subject always last

On 12 of 18 trials, confederates answered incorrectly


Asch’s (1950s) conformity studies

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Susan B Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Martin Luther King Jr.

The majority is powerful…but what about...

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Majority and Minority Influence

  • Majority influence:

    • Larger group influences smaller subgroup or individuals

  • Minority influence:

    • The individual or smaller group influences the larger group

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Moscovici & Minority Influence

  • Reversing the traditional Asch situation

  • Majority of SS and minority of confederates

  • Example study:

    • Showed SS blue slides

    • Confederates argue slides are green

    • Final judgements: 8.4% shifted judgements

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Factors Affecting Minority Influence

  • Consistency

  • Investment

  • Self-interest

  • Ingroup vs outgroup members

  • Flexibility and consistency

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Minority Influence and Status

  • Is early conformity important?

    • It may earn some ‘status’ with group members

  • Hollander’s studies on early conformity

    • 5 person groups; complex decisional task

    • Confederate demonstrated early conformity or not

    • Confederate showed nonconformity

    • Results:

      • Minority influence increased over time

      • Minority influence greater for early conformists

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Theory of Idiosyncrasy Credits (Hollander)

  • To dissent effectively, you must first earn the right by paying conformity dues called idiosyncrasy credits.

  • High status have more idiosyncrasy credits than low status

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Reconciling Hollander and Moscovici

  • Different viewpoints:

  • Hollander: early conformity is good

  • Moscovici: consistent nonconformity is important

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Compliance versus Conversion

  • Majority influence:

    • Compliance (direct influence)

  • Minority influence:

    • Conversion (indirect influence)

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Example study (Nemeth & Wachtler, 1974)

  • 5 person groups

  • Make award in personal injury case

  • Confederate argued for low award

  • Results:

    • Direct influence:

      • Final vote: majority unchanged- gave big award

    • Indirect influence:

      • On second case gave significantly smaller awards

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  • Willingness to obey “legitimate” authority

  • Example: Milgram obedience studies

  • Procedures:

    • ‘Teacher’ & ‘Student’: learn word pairs

    • ‘Teacher’ required to administer shock to ‘learner’ for errors

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The Milgram Experiments:Results

  • Over 60% punished learners with the highest shock intensity (450 volts)

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Peer Teaching of Motivation Theories

  • Assignment:

    • Each group is responsible for teaching the theory to the class and demonstrating the link to leadership

    • Some sort of visual aid is required

  • Group 1: Need theories

  • Group 2: Equity theory

  • Group 3: Expectancy theory

  • Group 4: ‘Work Design’ theories (Herzberg and Job characteristics model)

  • Group 5: Operant theory

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Assignment # 4

  • Carry out your own conformity study.

  • Type up a 1 page description of your study and your observations.

  • Be sure to indicate how your observations relate to material discussed in the course.