• “Flash mob” - a group of people who received instructions over the Internet, gathered voluntarily at a set time and place, performed some silly but harmless action, and dispersed.
  • “mass psychogenic illness” - a profound form of social influence.
  • Term social influence refers to the ways in which people are affected by the real and imagined pressures of others.


Social Influence as “Automatic”:

  • “Sometimes we are influenced by other people without our awareness.
  • Studies show that people mimic each other's behavior and moods, perhaps as a way of smoothing social interactions.


  • ~ the tendency to change our perceptions, opinions, or behavior in ways that are consistent with group norms.

The Early Classic:

  • Muzafer Sherif used the autokinetic effect: In darkness, a stationary point of light appears to move, sometimes erratically, in various directions.

The group judgments gradually converged.

  • “Using a simpler line-judgment task, Asch had confederates make incorrect responses and found that participants went along about a third of the time.
  • When it comes to social support and rejection, even virtual groups have the power to shape our behavior.

Why Do People Conform?:

  • Two different reasons:

о 1) Informational influence - influence that produces conformity when a person believes others are correct in their judgments.

о 2) Normative influence - influence that produces conformity when a person fears the negative social consequences of appearing deviant.

People who were socially ostracized - being neglected, ignored, and excluded in a live or Internet chatroom conversation - reacted by feeling hurt, angry, and alone.

  • The two types of influence produces different types of conformity:

о 1) Private conformity - the change of beliefs that occurs when a person privately accepts the position taken by others.

о 2) Public conformity - a superficial change in overt behavior, without a corresponding change of opinion, produced by real or imagined group pressure.

Majority Influence:

Group Size: The Power in Numbers:

  • Conformity increases with group size; but only to a point.
  • [Another] possible explanation is that as more and more people express the same opinion, an individual, is likely to suspect that they are acting either in “collusion” or as s”spineless sheep”.

A Focus on Norms:

  • Social norms give rise to conformity only when we know and focus on those norms.
  • People's willingness to express prejudice is also influenced by what they think the norms are.

An Ally in Dissent: Getting By with a Little Help:

  • The presence of a single confederate who agreed with the participant reduced conformity by almost 80 percent.
  • Two important conclusions:

о 1) It is substantially more difficult for people to stand alone for their convictions than to be part of even a tiny minority.

о 2) Any dissent - whether it validates an individual's opinion or not - can break the spell cast by a unanimous majority and reduce the normative pressure to conform.

Gender Differences:

  • First, sex differences depend on how comfortable people are with the experimental task. Ones familiarity with the issue at hand, not gender, is what affects conformity.
  • A second factor is the type of social pressure people face.

“Woman conform more than men on “masculine” tasks and in face-to-face settings, but not in “feminine” or gender-neutral tasks or in private settings.

  • Conformity rates are higher in cultures that value collectivism than in those that value individualism.”
  • Individualism - a cultural orientation in which independence, autonomy, and self-reliance take priority over group allegiances.
  • Collectivism - a cultural orientation in which interdependence, cooperation, and social harmony take priority over personal goals.
  • Three factors are suggest to determine whether a culture becomes individualistic or collectivistic: о 1) Complexity of a society.

о 2) Affluence of a society.

о 3) Heterogeneity.


Minority Influence:

  • ~ the process by which dissenters produce change within a group.
  • In general, minority influence is greater when the source is an ingroup member.

The Power of Style:

  • “Minorities can exert influence by taking a consistent and unwavering position [Moscovici].”
  • “First conform, then dissent to exert influence [Hollander].”
  • Idiosyncrasy credits - interpersonal “credits” that a person earns by following group norms.

A Chip Off the Old Block?:

  • “Majority influence is greater on direct and public measure of conformity, but minorities show their impact in indirect or private measures of conformity.
  • By forcing other group members to think more openly about a problem, minorities enhance the quality of a group's decision making.
  • People gain courage to resist conformity pressures after watching others do the same.”


  • ~ changes in behavior that are elicit by direct requests.

The Language of Request:

  • “People are more likely to comply when they are taken by surprise and when the request sounds reasonable.

The Norm of Reciprocity:

  • Norm of reciprocity - we treat others as they have treated us.
  • “We often comply when we feel indebted to a requester who has done us a favor.
  • People differ in the extent to which they use reciprocity for personal gain and are wary of falling prey to this strategie.”

Setting Traps: Sequential Request Strategies:

The Foot in the Door:

  • Foot-in-the-door technique - a two-step compliance technique in which an influencer sets the stage for the real request by first getting a person to comply with a much smaller request.


  • Low-Balling - a two-step compliance technique in which the influencer secures agreement with a request but then increases the size of that request by revealing hidden costs.
  • Despite the increase, people often follow through on their agreement.

The Door in the Face:

  • Door-in-the-face technique - a two-step compliance technique in which an influencer prefaces the real request with one that is so large that it is rejected.
  • Perceptual contrast: To the person exposed to a very large initial request, the second request “seems” smaller.

Reciprocal concessions: refers to the pressure to respond to changes in a bargaining position.

That's Not All, Folks:

  • That's-not-all technique - a two-step compliance technique in which the influencer begins with a inflated request, then decreases its apparent size by offering a discount or bonus.


Assertiveness: When People Say No:

  • Many people find it hard to be assertive. Doing so requires that we be vigilant and recognize the traps.



  • ~ behavior change produced by the commands of authority.


The Obedient Participant:

  • Factors That Influence Obedience.
  • Obedience levels are influenced by particularly three factors: the authority figure, the proximity of the victim, and the experimental procedure.

The Authority:

  • Destructive obedience requires the physical presence of a prestigious authority figure.

The Victim:

  • If the participants are physically separated from the person who has to bear (in this case) pain ( in Milgrams experiment the person who received the electric shocks ), the participant was able to distance himself/herself emotionally from the consequences of his/her actions.

The Procedure:

  • Participants did not feel personally responsible ( they were only transmitters)
  • Transmitters were more obedient than executants.
  • Gradual escalation promotes obedience ( 75 volts - 90 volts - 105 volts ... 330 volts ).

Milgram in the Twenty-Century:

  • It appears that obedience is a powerful aspect of human nature brought about by docile manner in which people relate to figures of authority - even today.

Defiance: When People Rebel:

  • “Just as processes of social influence breed obedience, they can also support acts of defiance, since groups are more difficult to control than individuals.
  • Provision of a situational explanation for cruel behavior does not excuse the behavior.”

The Continuum of Social Influence:

Social Impact Theory:

  • ~ the theory that influence depends on the strength, immediacy, and number of source persons relative to target persons who absorb that pressure.
  • Social Impact: Source Factors and Target Factors.

Perspectives on Human Nature:

  • “There is no single answer to the question of whether people are conformists or nonconformists.
  • There are cross-cultural differences in social influence, and values change over time even within specific cultures.”