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Social Influence

 

Explanations > Theories > Social Influence

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

Social influence is the change in behavior that one person causes in another, intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of the way the changed person perceives themselves in relationship to the influencer, other people and society in general.

Three areas of social influence are conformity, compliance and obedience.

Conformity is changing how you behave to be more like others. This plays to belonging and esteem needs as we seek the approval and friendship of others. Conformity can run very deep, as we will even change our beliefs and values to be like those of our peers and admired superiors.

Compliance is where a person does something that they are asked to do by another. They may choose to comply or not to comply, although the thoughts of social reward and punishment may lead them to compliance when they really do not want to comply.

Obedience is different from compliance in that it is obeying an order from someone that you accept as an authority figure. In compliance, you have some choice. In obedience, you believe that you do not have a choice. Many military officers and commercial managers are interested only in obedience.

Research

Solomon Asch showed how a person could be influenced by others in a group to claim that a clearly shorter line in a group of lines was, in fact, the longest.

Stanley Milgram did classic experiments in obedience, where people off the street obeyed orders to give (what they thought were) life-threatening electric shocks to other people.

Example

You ask me to pass the salt. I comply by giving it to you.

You tell me to pass the salt. I obey by giving it to you.

I notice that people are using salt and passing it to the person on their left without comment. I conform by doing likewise.

So what?

Using it

Social Psychology includes a large domain of knowledge around Social Influence (much of which is on this site). This provides a powerful basis through which to persuade others.

Defending

Understand the psychology of social influence and how you respond to it. Notice yourself in social situations. Also notice how others are deliberately or unconsciously influencing you. Then choose how you will respond.

See also

Theories about conforming, Normative Social Influence, Informational Social Influence, Social Impact Theory

References

Asch (1951, 1956, 1966), Milgram (1983)

 

http://youtube.com/watch?v=w1u4wfRhKrY (Milgram video)

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