Social Psychology: Social Influence

Emily Denning and Catherine Roukhadze

Key Terms

Conformity- adjusting one's behavior or thinking to coincide with a group standard.

Social facilitation- stronger responses on simple or well-learned tasks in the presence of others.

Social loafing- the tendency for people in a group to exert less effort when pooling their efforts toward attaining a common goal than when individually accountable.

Group polarization-the enhancement of a group's prevailing inclinations through discussion within the group.

Key People

Solomon Asch- came up with an experiment to test conformity. All other participants choose an answer that the participant thinks is wrong. Most of the time, they will choose an answer in order to agree with the group.

Stanley Milgram- social psychologist who designed the experiment on obedience. (video below)

Solomon Asch Experiment

In a 1955 experiment in which Asch invites participants to take a visual perception test. They arrive to find five people already there (who are confederates). The participant is asked three times to match which line is the same length as the line given to him/her. On the third time, the five other people unanimously agree on a blatantly wrong line, causing the participant to feel nervous.

Result: Answering alone, people erred 1% of the time. Answering with the confederates, they answered along with the group more than 1/3 of the time.

Milgram's Obedience Experiment

Parts of Social Influence

  • Conformity and Obedience
              Conformity is strengthened when...
                           one is made to feel incompetent or insecure, the group has at least
                           three people, the group is unanimous, one admires the group's
                           status/attractiveness, one has made no prior commitment to any
                           response, others in the group observe one's behavior, one's culture
                           strongly encourages respect for social standards.
              Obedience is highest when...
                           the person giving the orders is close at hand and is perceived to be a
                           legitimate authority figure, the authority figure is supported by a
                           prestigious institution, the victim was depersonalized or at a distance
                           (even in another room), there were no role models for defianc
  • Group Influence

             Social Facilitation (see graph below):
                          what you do well, you are likely to do even better in front of an
                          audience. What you normally find difficult, may seem all but
                          impossible when you are being watched.
            Social Loafing:
                          If group share equally in the benefits, regardless of how much they
                          contribute, some may slack off (unless highly motivated and identified
                          with their group); it is more common in individualistic cultures
  • Cultural Influence

             Cultures vary in their expressiveness, pace of life, social norms, language,
             monetary systems, etc. They also change over time. Each culture shapes a
             person in a different manner.
  • The Power of Individuals

             Minority influence: the power of one or two individuals to sway an influence.
             This is more likely to happen if they hold consistently to their position. People
             may follow the majority view publicly, but will privately side with the
Above is a graph depicting the curves of performance in Social Facilitation.

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