Lecture 9: Social Influence

Social Influence
Principles & techniques where one person’s
attitudes, cognitions, behaviours, changed
through doings of another
Focus on behaviour change
Study of people’s influence on each other
is one of the big 3 of social psych (others
are attitudes & attributions).
 ‘Messy’ research as it’s very much realworld based.
 A humanist need to understand war and
conflict generally.
Three classic studies: obedience,
conformity, & compliance.
 original context of the studies (why then?;
could we do them now?).
 apply to both enduring and topical
Obedience: explicit order.
 Conformity: Implicit process; go along with
what’s out there.
see also compliance: yielding to others.
Some room for cross-over.
Factors causing compliance
Social Influences on compliance
Focusing on powerful effects (ability to change
compliance decisions) experiment not most
useful determiner
Development of powerful compliance inducers
6 psychological principles
 Friendship/liking
 Scarcity
 Consistency
 Social Validation
 Authority
return a gift, favour, service - widely shared feeling of human
Rule for compliance:
 more willing to comply with request from someone who has
previously provided favour/concession.
Unsolicited gift + request for donation technique - socialised sense
of discomfort of unpaid debt
Reciprocal concessions:
Door-in-the-face-technique (extreme followed by moderate
request) Cialdini et al. 1975
 That’s-not-all-technique Burger 1976
Rule: more willing to comply with friends, liked
Tupperware parties
Tactics to increase liking:
 Physical attractiveness
 Similarity
 Compliments
 Cooperation
Rule: one should try to secure those
opportunities that are scarce/dwindling
2 sources of power of scarcity:
 availability of item determines quality
 lose freedoms, psychological reactance
theory (Brehm 1966)
limited access – increased desire –assign
positive qualities to justify desire
limited access to information also makes it more
desirable and more influential, Brock 1968
Idea of potential loss v important in human
decision making, Tversky & Kahneman 1981
Desire (to appear) consistent - prime motivator of
Festinger 1957, Heider 1958, Newcomb 1953,
Baumeister 1982
How is force engaged? commitment
Rule: having committed to a position, more willing
to comply with requests consistent with that
Strategy to generate crucial instigating
Foot-in-the-door technique (Freedman &
Fraser 1966) (children not influenced until
understand idea of stable personality trait)
commitment maximally effective to extent
it is active; effortful; public; internally
Social validation
Use beliefs, attitudes, actions of similar
others as standard of comparison for selfevaluation
Rule: more willing to comply with request
for behaviour if consistent with what
similar others are doing .
Asch (1955, 1956) - Conformity
The cornerstone of group studies.
7-9 students, taking part in an exercise of visual
 6-8
2 cards: reference line and a card with 3
‘candidate’ lines. One was obviously correct.
1st 2 trials: correct for both confederate and
Subsequent: unanimous choice of wrong line by
Floor level of wrong answers (1%) on 1st 2 trials.
37% on subsequent.
Interesting points:
One ‘dissenter’ lessened conformity drastically.
Low self-esteem strongly inclined (cf. Crowne & Marlow, 1964).
Gender – very much nuanced.
Eagly & Carli (1981) – small diff. in a meta-analysis.
Cialdini & Trost (1998): men less likely to conform in public settings.
Festinger’s Social Comparison theory 1954
constant drive to evaluate ourselves
if available, prefer to use objective cues
if not, rely on social comparison evidence
prefer similar others for comparison
List technique Reingen 1982
Legitmate authorities v influential, Aronson et al. 1963
Rule: more willing to follow suggestions of authority
Hofling et al. 1966 – Dr. on phone, nurses willing to
administer unsafe level of drug
Uniforms, etc.
Lefkowitz et al. 1955 Jaywalker in business suit
Milgram (1963, 1974) Obedience
One of the most cited studies of all time in all social
Inspired by the hypothesis that the Germans were
Yale setting (important).
Confederate (learner) – participant design. 40 subjects.
1-30 shock level.
No one stopped before level 20 (top end of ‘intense
26 went to the top of the xxx shock.
Mean max shock was 27.
Explaining the effect
Obedience to authority: Apparatus of authority is crucial
Coat; Yale; scientific progress; gravitas…
Variation - NO subject gave shock when non-authority
demanded it
Gradual increase in demands; consistency needs
Limited source of information in a novel situation
Responsibility not assigned or diffused
Norm information? Personality variables?
Huge applicability (average white men).
 Ecological validity debate
 Did
they know it was a set up?
 Unlikely: physiological and direct
observations; new for its time).
Ethics: should you be able to do this to
 None
regretted it in the debriefing.
Interesting findings (Blass,
Women as ‘prone’ as men.
 Proxemics is a factor.
 Self-reports in advance don’t tally.
 Personality factors: RWA (Altemeyer,
Zimbardo (1972, 1975): roles &
Prison guard study.
 22 college students.
 Volunteered for this study.
 ‘Hygiene’ (1983) important: arrested,
fingerprinted, stripped, ‘deloused’
(deodorised!), uniformed.
Key details
Uniform was smock like (emasculating).
Mirror sunglasses.
No names used (not told to do this).
Half the prisoners dropped out due to stress.
Ganged up on each other.
Milder officers moved towards the position of the more
‘hard core’ ones.
Parole board – denied; returned to cells.
Due to last 2 weeks; abandoned after 6 days.
No ‘good’ guard intervened
Obedience when provided with a
legitimizing ideology and social &
institutional support
 Cognitive dissonance theory
 Power of authority
 Power of a strong situation
Reading (All in June’s office)
Reading 37 & 40 in Forty Studies that
Changed Psychology.
 Zimbardo interview
 American Psychologist January 2009,
1-11, 12-19, 20-27, 28-31, 32-36.