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Social Influence and Conformity: A social science perspective

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Introduction An area of Social Physcology is Social Influence; this is the process by which an individual's attitudes, beliefs or behaviours are modified by the person's presence of others. In particular the report will look into conformity. Conformity is defined by Crutchfield (19 ) 'as yielding to a real or imagined group pressure'. People change their behaviour towards social norms. This is defined as an unwritten rule or code about behaviour and attitudes that are expected and accepted within a social group, which are time and culture bound There are three types of conformity * Informational Social Influence- In some situations mostly social ones, there are no right answers, therefore we look to others for information. ...read more.


One study was that of Sheriff (1935) who used the visual illusion called the autokinetic effect. Participants were asked to watch a spot of light on a dark wall, which appeared to move and were then asked to estimate how far and in which direction the light moved. After 100 trials there was a consistent level of judgement Sheriff then asked participants to work in groups, they did not say a group estimate but group judgements converged when participants were individually tested later. The study showed that a group performance had created a socially determined norm. ...read more.


The results showed that people would conform to group norms even if the answer was clearly wrong, however some participants were independent suggesting that people can resist the pressure to conform, in situations of certainty. Jeness's study is the investigation that this research will follow. It was one of the first empirical studies of conformity. He asked participants to estimate the number of beans in a bottle, and then discuss it in groups and arrive at a group estimate. Participants were individually asked again and it was clear that there was a distinct shift towards the group estimates. This demonstrates normative social influence The above research has illustrated that we conform when unsure of an answer, the aim of this research is ...read more.

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