- There are three types of social influence. Conformity
involves a change in a person's attitudes or behavior
in response to (often implicit) pressure from others.
Compliance involves going along with explicit
requests made by others. Finally, obedience involves
giving in to the commands of an authority.
- There are three sources of conformity. Sometimes
people conform mindlessly and automatically,
when the very perception of someone else's behavior
makes them more likely to behave that way
themselves (the principle of ideomotor action). Other
times, people conform because of informational
social influencethat is, they look upon the actions
of others as information about what is best to do.
Still other times people conform because of normative
social influencethat is, out of concern for the
social consequences of their actions.
- Several characteristics of the group affect conformity
pressure. The larger the group size, the greater its
influencebut only up to a size of about four people.
Unanimous groups are far more effective than
those with even a single other dissenter. Moreover,
the greater the expertise and status of group members,
the greater their influence.
- Culture and gender affect conformity. People from
more interdependent cultures are more likely to
conform than people from independent cultures.
Women are somewhat more likely to conform than
men. But both men and women conform more in
domains in which they are less knowledgeable.
- Several task factors affect conformity pressure. The
more difficult and ambiguous the task is, as with the
autokinetic experiment, the greater the conformity.
When people's responses are anonymous, they are
less affected by others' responses. Finally, when people
have satisfying explanations of others' judgments,
such as monetary gain, they are less affected by others'
- The direction of influence is not always from the
majority to the minority. Sometimes minority influence
can be substantial, especially when it is a consistent
- The study of obedience has been dominated by the
experiments of Stanley Milgram, who documented
that most participants go along with potentially
harmful commands of an authority.
- Participants in obedience experiments are caught in
a conflict between two opposing forces: normative
social influence and moral imperatives. To modify the
strength of these forces, participants tend to tune
out the learner and to tune in the experimenter.
- Although Milgram's results strike nearly everyone as
wildly counterintuitive, they can be rendered less
surprising by considering the stepwise nature of his
commands, the attempts to terminate the experiment
made by most participants, and the ability of participants
to place the onus of responsibility on the
experimenter, not themselves.
- Compliance with the requests of others may be
elicited through both reason-based techniques and
- Powerful reason-based approaches include invoking
the norm of reciprocity by, say, doing a favor for someone
or making a concession (the door-in-the-face technique),
and starting up a foot-in-the-door process by
first getting someone to agree to a small request
before making the more substantial request in
which one is really interested.
- Powerful emotion-based approaches include getting
the targeted person in a good mood, which is likely
to increase compliance because of mood maintenance.
- Compliance may also result from a desire for negative
state relief, as an act of compliance may reduce
guilt or sadness.
- Sometimes attempts to influence us backfire, as
when would-be influencers generate reactance. Our
attempts to resist influence are aided by simple practice
at it, by having an ally, by being wary of slippery
slopes, and by avoiding action in the face of an emotional
influence attempt by "sleeping on" the