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Social Influence

1) Majority Influence

Social influence is the term used to describe how the behaviour of one person affects the behaviour of another.

Majority Influence is when the behaviour of a large number of people affects the behaviour of a smaller group of people. This normally results in conformity, this is the change in someone’s behaviour due to influence of others.

There are three types of conformity:

1)      Compliance – going along with others to gain their approval

2)      Internalisation – going along with others because you have accepted their opinions and believe them too

3)      Identification – going along with others because you accepted their opinions, but only because you want to be like them


Asch (1956)

AIM – To see if participants would conform to majority influence when the majority were clearly wrong

PROCEDURE – 123 male American undergraduates were tested. A series of lines were shown to participants who were asked to guess which line out of 3 matched in length to the previous line shown. However, all but one of the participants were confederates who purposely gave the same wrong answer.

FINDINGS – In total the “real” participants conformed to majority influence on 32% of the trials. 74% of participants conformed at least once, whilst 26% never conformed.

CONCLUSION: This suggests that the power of majority influence is very high as 74% gave the wrong answer even though it was obviously incorrect.

EVALUATION – This study has been criticized as being ethnocentric and androcentric as the sample was only American, male students.  

It is most likely that this study showed “compliance”, as the participants knew the majorities answers was wrong, but wanted to avoid the confederates’ disapproval.

Factors affecting Authority

Asch found that the size of the majority isn’t particularly important; it only took a majority of 3 to produce substantial conformity. However there are some factors that affect majority influence:

– Having an ally/a “split” majority – If the participant has someone who gives the right answer, or even the majority give different wrong answer, the rate of conformity drops dramatically

– Status of Majority – Studies have found that if the confederates are of higher status than the participant conformity increases.


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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