Social Influence - School District of Cambridge

Social Influence
Conformity and Obedience
Group Influence
The Power of Individuals
• Social psychology’s great lesson is the enormous power
of social influence
• This influence can be seen in our:
• Conformity
• Obedience to authority
• Our group behavior
Social Influence
• The greatest contribution of social psychology is its
study of attitudes, beliefs, decisions, and actions, and
the way they are molded by social influence.
NON SEQUITER © 2000 Wiley. Dist. by Universal
Press Syndicate Reprinted with Permission
and Obedience
Mood Linkage
Solomon Asch
Social Norms
Stanley Milgram
Conformity & Obedience
• Behavior is contagious, modeled by one
followed by another.
• We follow behavior of others to conform.
• Other behaviors may be an expression of
compliance (obedience) toward authority.
The Chameleon Effect
• The chameleon effect is our tendency to
unconsciously mimic those around us.
• Yawning when others yawn
• Picking up the mood of a happy or sad person
• This automatic mimicry is an ingredient in our ability to
empathize with others.
• This helps explain why we feel happier around happy people
than around depressed people
• It also helps explain why studies of groups of British nurses and
accountants have revealed mood linkage – sharing up and
down moods
• Conformity is adjusting one’s behaviors or
thinking to coincide with a group standard
(Chartrand & Bargh, 1999).
• Conformity involves yielding to social pressure.
How did you
feel the first
time someone
asked you to
• In the 1950s, Solomon Asch
showed that people have a
surprisingly strong tendency to
• He conducted a classic experiment
where subjects were asked to make
unambiguous judgments, indicating which
of three lines on a card matched an
original standard
• The task was easy, and 7 subjects were
asked one at a time to make their
judgments aloud. Only the 6th subject
was a real subject – the others were
confederates who, after a few trials,
began purposely giving wrong answers.
The Asch Experiment
Group Pressure and Conformity
• Asch wanted to see how often people conformed and
gave an answer they knew was wrong, just because
everyone else did. How often would someone be
influenced because they are willing to accept others’
opinions about reality?
• He found that, on average, about 1/3 (37%) conformed
completely; 70% conformed at least once. However,
there was considerable variability among subjects (some
never caved at all).
Conditions that Strengthen
• Subsequent studies using a similar protocol to
Asch’s experiment found that certain things might
influence whether or not people will conform.
• Conformity increases when:
• One is made to feel incompetent or insecure
• The group has at least three people
• The group is unanimous (if just one other person
does not go along with the group (a dissenter),
subjects are significantly less likely to conform)
• One admires the group’s status and attractiveness
• One has made no prior commitment to a response
• One is being observed by members of the group
• One’s culture strongly encourages respect for a social
standard (a collectivist culture like China)
Reasons for Conforming
• Informational Social Influence: Influence resulting
from one’s willingness to accept others’ opinions
about reality.
• The group may provide valuable information, but stubborn
people will never listen to others.
• Other people might conform to what the group believes
even if they figure they might know better.
Figure 18.4
Informational influence
Myers: Psychology,
Eighth Edition
Copyright © 2007 by Worth
Reasons for Conforming
• Normative Social Influence (“social norms”): Influence
resulting from a person’s desire to gain approval or avoid
rejection/ disappointment.
• A person may respect normative behavior because there
may be a severe price to pay if it’s not respected.
• For example, Darhl Pederson and his colleagues
demonstrated conformity to a social norm.
• When someone else was present in a public restroom,
____ percent of women washed their hands. If no one
else was present, only ____ percent did so.
Breaking Social Norms
Frozen Grand Central
The Sound of Music in Central Station, Belgium
• Examine which cultures are more likely to
encourage conformity:
• What are the qualities of cultures that encourage conformity?
• What types of government do these cultures have?
• Are they all communistic, democratic, or a mixture of both?
• On whom do these cultures encourage conformity –
government officials, families, adults or all of the above?
• How do these cultures handle people who don’t conform?
• Do they suffer formalized punishment (jail, fines, etc.) or
more informal social punishment (shunning, lack of job
advancement, etc.)?
Courtesy of CUNY Graduate School and University Center
• People comply to
social pressures.
• How would they
respond to outright
• Stanley Milgram
designed a study that
investigates the effects
of authority on
Stanley Milgram
Obedience and the
Milgram Experiment
• Obedience is a form of compliance that occurs when people
follow direct commands, usually from someone in a position of
• Stanley Milgram (1960s), like many people, was troubled over
the Nazi war criminal defense “I was just following orders.” He
designed a landmark experiment to determine how often
ordinary people will obey an authority figure, even if it means
hurting another person.
• His experiment consisted of 40 men from the local community
recruited to participate in a psychology experiment, supposedly
on the effects of punishment on learning. The men were given
the role of “teacher” in the experiment, while a confederate
was given the role of “learner.”
• The teacher was seated before an apparatus that had 30
switches ranging from 15 to 450 volts, with labels of slight
shock, danger: severe shock, and XXX etc. Although the
apparatus looked and sounded real, it was fake. The learner
was never shocked.
• 00:00 – 24:30*
• 28 – 38  yell
Results of Milgram’s Study
• Milgram found that _____ of the men administered
all 30 levels of the shock, even though they displayed
considerable distress at shocking the learner.
Results of Milgram’s Study, cont.
• Subsequent studies (and there were many) indicated
that, like in Asch’s study, certain conditions could
affect one’s level of obedience. Likelihood of
obedience increased when:
• The victim could not be seen
• An authority figure was close at hand
• A prestigious organization or institution was behind the
• Lack of a defiant role model
• A dissenter was present. If a confederate defied the
experimenter and supported the subject’s objections, the
subject was significantly less likely to give all the shocks
(only 10%).
Results of Milgram’s Study, cont.
• Milgram’s experiments were extremely
controversial, as his method involved
considerable deception and emotional distress
on the part of subjects.
• The generalizability of Milgram’s findings has
stood the test of time, but his work helped
stimulate stricter ethical standards for research.
• Milgram’s findings have been replicated in many
modern nations and even higher rates of
obedience have been seen in many places.
What have we learned from the
conformity and obedience
studies done by Asch, Zimbardo,
and Milgram?
• Ordinary people can do shocking things, because social roles
and other situational pressures can exert tremendous
influence over social behavior.
• In all of these studies, participants were pressured to choose
between following their standards and being responsive to
others (for example, in Milgram’s study, participants were torn
between hearing the victims pleas and the experimenter’s
• Milgram and Zimbardo both showed that situational forces can
lead normal people to exhibit surprisingly callous, abusive
behavior (Abu Ghraib)
Social Facilitation
Social Loafing
Group Polarization
Group Influence
• How do groups affect our behavior?
• Social psychologists study various groups:
One person affecting another
A group consists of two or
more individuals who
interact and are
• Imagine yourself standing in a room, holding a fishing
• Your task is to wind the reel as fast as you can.
• On some occasions you wind in the presence of another
participant who is also winding as fast as possible.
• Will the other’s presence affect your own
• In one of social psychology’s first experiments, Norman
Triplett (1898) found that adolescents would wind a
fishing reel faster in the presence of someone doing
the same thing
• He and later social psychologists studied how others’
presence affects our behavior
• Social facilitation: refers to improved
performance on simple or well-learned tasks in
the presence of others.
• Triplett (1898) noticed cyclists’ race times were
faster when they competed against others than
when they just raced against the clock.
• Works just the opposite for
difficult tasks
• When others observe us, we become
aroused, which sometimes hinders
• If performance on tasks diminishes when we are not
good at that task, consider the following scenarios:
• Should students schedule when they take tests so that they can
take them when they are ready? Why or why not?
• Should students be allowed to give oral presentations in front
of the teacher if they believe their project isn’t very good or
if they are uncomfortable with their public speaking ability?
Why or why not?
The Yerkes-Dodson Law
Applies to Social Facilitation
• There is an optimal level of
arousal for the best
performance of any task:
• easy tasks = relatively high
• difficult tasks = low arousal
• other tasks = moderate level
• Have you ever noticed, while
working on a group project for
school, that some people just
don’t pull their weight?
• Welcome to the concept of
social loafing!
• Studies show that productivity
decreases as group size
We pull harder by ourselves!
• Social Loafing: is the
tendency of an individual in
a group to exert less effort
toward attaining a common
goal than if they were
individually accountable
• In other words, it’s a reduced
individual effort when people
work in groups as compared to
when they work alone.
We pull harder by ourselves!
• What causes social loafing?
• Three things:
• People acting as part of a group feel less accountable, and
therefore worry less about what others think
• Group members may view their individual contributions as
• When group members share equally in the benefits,
regardless of how much they contribute, some may slack off.
• Unless highly motivated and strongly identified with the
group, people may free-ride on others’ efforts
Pull out a sheet of paper…
• Hide your paper so that no one around you can see it.
• On your paper, I want you to answer this question with 100%
• If you could do anything humanly possible with complete
assurance that you would not be detected or held
responsible, what would you do?
• Fold your paper after you finish writing.
Pull out a sheet of paper…
• Dodd (1987) reported data from 10 college psychology classes
and 3 prison psychology classes.
• Interestingly enough, Dodd found no difference between the
responses of students and prisoners.
• He classified the responses as antisocial (36%), non-normative
(19%), neutral (36%), and prosocial (9%).
• Frequent responses include illegal acts (26%), sexual behavior
(11%), and spying on others (11%). The most popular single
response Dodd has found is “rob a bank” (15%).
• This illustrates the phenomenon of social control and how it
influences our behavior.
• Looking at Dodd’s prison data, you can see that some people are
not as highly influenced by society’s constraints as others.
• This idea leads us to…
• Deindividuation: is the loss of self-awareness and selfrestraint occurring in group situations that foster arousal and
• For example:
• Spectators yelling at officials
Mob behavior
(lynchings, riots) is
an example of
Group Polarization
• Decision making processes can be
influenced by groups as well.
• Group polarization occurs when
group discussion strengthens a
group’s dominant point of view
and produces a shift toward a
more extreme decision in that
• In other words, when a group is
like-minded, discussion strengthens
its prevailing opinions and attitudes
and leads a group to shift toward a
more extreme decision in the
direction it was already leaning
• For example: racial prejudice, politics,
suicide terrorists
As a group, both the Black
Panthers and the Ku Klux Klan
are more extreme than the
average individual in the group.
• Groupthink is the mode of thinking that occurs when the desire
for harmony in a decision-making group overrides the realistic
appraisal of alternatives (common sense).
• In other words, groupthink is when a cohesive group suspends
critical thinking in a misguided effort to promote agreement.
• Members of a group become so interested in seeking a consensus
of opinion that they start to ignore and even suppress
dissenting views.
• Many “historic fiascoes” can be attributed to its influence:
• Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs invasion
• WMDs in Iraq
• The escalation of the Vietnam conflict
• The U.S. failure to anticipate the attack on
Pearl Harbor
• Research indicates that cohesiveness (strength of the liking
relationships linking group members) is a significant
contributor to groupthink.
Groupthink in the Challenger explosion
Symptoms of “Groupthink”
• An illusion of invulnerability – The decision makers in the group believe
that they will succeed, demonstrating an unrealistic degree of
confidence, resulting in a willingness to resort to extreme risk.
• An illusion of unanimity – Everyone in the group believes that everyone
holds the same opinion, when in reality, other people may be having
misgivings. This shared illusion results in strong conformity pressure – no
one expresses their reservations, for fear of group criticism or retribution.
• A belief on the inherent morality of the group – The group members
believe what they are doing is the morally and ethically correct course of
action, and ignore evidence to the contrary.
• Collective rationalization – In the face of arguments against their course
of action, the group will collectively rationalize, or “explain away” the
arguments, which may have led them to reconsider their course of
• Stereotypical thinking – Members of a group in the throes of groupthink
paint in broad strokes, portraying their adversaries in terms of broad
• Mindguards – mindguards are self-appointed “gatekeepers” who take it
upon themselves to keep dissenting opinions out of the discussion,
protecting the “unanimity” of the group.
The Power of
Minority Influence
Power of Individuals
The power of social
influence is
enormous, but so is
the power of the
Non-violent fasts and
appeals by Gandhi
led to the
independence of
India from the
Margaret Bourke-White/ Life Magazine. © 1946 Time Warner, Inc.
Minority Influence
• Minority influence refers to the power of one or two
individuals to sway majorities.
• Remember that a third of the individuals in Milgram’s study
resisted social coercion.
• They have a consistency in the expression of their views.
• Examples:
• Gandhi, MLK Jr., Rosa Parks
• An unarmed individual single-handedly challenged a line of tanks at
Tiananmen Square.
• What is social facilitation, and is it more likely to occur with a welllearned or a brand-new task? Why?
• People tend to exert less effort when working with a group than they
would alone, which is called _____________________.
• You organizing a meeting of fiercely competitive political candidates.
To add to the fun, friends have suggested handing out masks of the
candidates’ faces for supporters to wear. What phenomenon might
these masks engage?
• When like-minded groups discuss a topic, and the results is the
strengthening of the prevailing opinion, this is called
• When a group’s desire for harmony overrides its realistic analysis of
other options _______________ has occurred.