Informational Social Influence (Definition + Examples) - Practical Psychology (2023)

How do you know what to do or what decisions to make? This is a big question, but it’s one worth considering. We often make decisions without even thinking about the people, information, or other factors that play into those decisions. Most of the time, this is okay, but following the crowd or relying on the influence of others doesn’t always help us make the best decisions. Informational social influence, or social proof, can lead us astray.

On this page, you will learn more about informational social influence and how it contributes to our everyday decisions and behavior.

Table Of Contents hide

How Does Informational Social Influence Work?

More Examples of Informational Social Influence

Informational vs. Normative Social Influence

(Video) The Asch Line Study - Conformity Experiment

How to Use Informational Social Influence On Others

(Video) Social Influence: Crash Course Psychology #38

What Is Informational Social Influence?

Informational social influence occurs when people look to others for information on how to behave. This is also known as social proof. We also use social proof to affirm our decisions. Although we may be influenced differently by different people, informational social influence often aligns with our “gut.”

Who Discovered Informational Social Influence?

Although studies on informational social influence go back to Sherif’s work in the 1930s, “social proof” was first introduced as a term by Robert Cialdini in 1984. His book, Influence: Science and Practice, is a significant book in modern psychology.

Cialdini is most known for his work on persuasion. Social proof, or consensus, is considered one of his six principles of persuasion and influence.

How Does Informational Social Influence Work?

There are three factors that play into the effectiveness of informational social influence: confusion, chaos, and self-categorization.

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Some situations are more confusing than others. Let’s say you’re looking to go out to eat in your hometown. You probably know what restaurants are in the area. If you are deciding between chain restaurants, you may even know what foods are on the menu and the quality of your meal. You don’t need to go online and look up reviews of the local Applebee’s or IHOP. But what if you’re in a foreign country? Every restaurant is completely new to you. The cuisine is unfamiliar. How do you know a good restaurant from a not-so-good restaurant?

This is where information social influence comes in. Maybe you look up reviews or you just walk down the street and see what is busy.


In a moment of chaos, you need to make a split decision. There is no time to look up reviews or do proper research. This is when informational social influence comes into play. Let’s say you’re at a concert when you hear a large explosion. You see people running away from the stage, so you follow. Maybe this doesn’t feel like a conscious decision, but it’s one made using social proof.

Importance of Self-Categorization

In a moment of chaos like the one just mentioned, who do you look to? If the only people you can see are concertgoers, you may rely on their judgment. But what if you see a firefighter telling you to go in a certain direction? People are likely to turn to “experts” or those who have more authority than them. When you make a decision about buying a house, you are likely to take the advice of a realtor who knows the area. At a concert, you follow the instructions of the staff or even the person performing. On the other hand, you may not take the advice or be influenced by someone who you believe has less authority than you.

How we categorize ourselves and others is a central idea within many social psychology theories.

More Examples of Informational Social Influence

  • You’re in a new city and not sure where to go to dinner. When you look for dinner places on your phone, you find an option that is rated 4.5 stars by 1,000 people and an option that is rated 2.5 stars by 1,000 people. This information tells you that the first option is probably pretty good.
  • It’s your first time at a farmer’s market and you’re not sure whether you can bring your dog. As you look around, you see a few people walking their dogs. You decide that it’s probably okay to bring your dog, too.
  • At school, the power goes out. Immediately, the professor tells you to wait out the situation because this happens often. You listen and stay calm.

Informational vs. Normative Social Influence

What happens if the information you are given doesn’t align with your judgment? Maybe one restaurant looks very delicious, but everyone around you is raving about a different restaurant. You think “C” is the right answer to the test, but everyone else is saying “B” is right. Do you change your mind?

This is what Solomon Asch wanted to find out when he put together one of the most influential experiments in psychology: the Asch Line Study. The study asked participants to conduct a simple exercise. They were shown one line, and a set of three lines of different lengths. Researchers then asked a series of people, including the participant, to identify which two lines were the same length. One answer was obvious, but the other people in the room, all actors, chose the wrong answer.

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What did the participants do? Did they answer what they thought was right, despite everyone else saying something different? About two out of three participants did. But over a third of participants chose the wrong answer to fit in with the crowd.

Sometimes, we make decisions just to fit in or be accepted by other people. This is called normative social influence. It’s slightly different from informational social influence. Normative social influence doesn’t rely on what is logical or right – just what everyone else thinks.

Can’t We Combine These? (Referent Social Influence)

What about the decisions we make when we combine the influence of others with the desire to be correct and logical? Psychologists have identified this type of influence and called it referent social influence, or referent informational influence.

No one form of social influence is “better” than the other. We may make decisions due to any of these influences depending on the stakes at hand, the people we are around, or the information accessible to us. Think about some recent decisions that you made. Did you make them so that you could fit in with the crowd or because that’s simply what the crowd was doing at the time? Did a combination of both influence you? When we step back and think about how we make decisions, we might surprise ourselves!

How to Use Informational Social Influence On Others

Knowing what you know about being influenced, you can also adjust your speeches, language, and messages to influence others. It’s not recommended that you create chaos or put people in an emergency so they listen to you, but these quick tips could help you get your intended message across to others and influence their decisions.

Establish yourself as an authority figure. People are more likely to listen to you if they believe you have some sort of expertise in your field or if you’re an authority figure. You don’t need to get a degree to give off this impression. Be confident when speaking. Dress sharply and professionally. Share the experiences that make you an expert, or at least knowledgeable in the subject that you’re sharing.

Create confusion. It could be fun to create confusion or ambiguity while giving a presentation. This can grab a listener’s attention and intrigue them. Just be aware of whether the confusion you’re creating will actually misinform listeners. You only want to briefly use confusion as a hook.
Back up your message with more social proof. Are there reviews or testimonials that back up what you have to say? Share them! Maybe you want to tell people you’re a great plumber. Reading or sharing reviews from community members who enjoyed your services will further convince people that you are who you say you are. Let the social proof of others do all the work!

(Video) Social Influence (Conformity, Compliance & Obedience)| Social Psychology| Mind Review

Related posts:

  1. Deindividuation (Social Psychology)
  2. Solomon Asch (Psychologist Biography)
  3. Identity vs Confusion: Psychosocial Stage 5
  4. Fear of Crowds – Enochlophobia
  5. The Good Samaritan Effect (Definition + Examples)


What is an example of informational influence in social psychology? ›

Informational influence has often been examined in the context of group decision making. For instance, a jury may be divided as to the guilt or innocence of a defendant. The group majority will attempt to convince members of the minority to change their votes to match the majority's vote.

What is an everyday example of informational social influence? ›

Influence also sometimes occurs because we believe that other people have valid knowledge about an opinion or issue, and we use that information to help us make good decisions. For example, if you take a flight and land at an unfamiliar airport you may follow the flow of other passengers who disembarked before you.

What is informational social influence in psychology? ›

Informational Social Influence is where a person conforms to gain knowledge, or because they believe that someone else is 'right'.

What is an example of informational influence conformity? ›

So, another example of informational conformity is when we travel to other countries. Typically, we're unsure of how to act and rely on our observations of others to point us in the right direction. When we change our behavior based on the actions of the locals, we are demonstrating informational conformity.

What are examples of informational conformity in everyday life? ›

Informational conformity – Conforming to a group because you want to be correct. It can be defined as 'believing the majority is usually correct'. For example, in an election where it appears that the majority are voting for one party, you'll also vote for them because it seems like the right thing to do.

What is informational social influence quizlet? ›

What is informational social influence? A form of influence which occurs because an individual wants to be right, or do the right thing. The individual will believe the majority provide evidence about reality.

What are 5 examples of informative? ›

Informative Writing Samples
  • Inspiring Nations.
  • Deduce, Diffuse, De-cycle.
  • Four-Hoofed Therapy Machines.
  • Animal Control.
  • Tattoos: Changing Fashion Fads.
  • The Bird Flu: Fish or Fowl.
  • Tenacity: Vital to Success.
  • The Reconnection of a City.

What are the examples of informative? ›

Reports, lectures, training seminars, and demonstrations are all examples of informative speaking. That means you are more likely to give and listen to informative speeches in a variety of contexts.

What is most associated with informational social influence? ›

Informational social influence is usually associated with internalisation, where a person changes both their public behaviour and their private beliefs, on a long-term basis.

Why is informational social influence important? ›

Informational social influence leads to real, long-lasting changes in beliefs. The result of conformity due to informational social influence is normally private acceptance : real change in opinions on the part of the individual.

What are examples of normative social influence? ›

Normative Social Influence
  • Behaviour Modification.
  • Biological Explanations for Bullying.
  • Bullying Behaviour.
  • Cortisol Research.
  • Deindividuation.
  • Ethological Explanations of Aggression.
  • Ethology.
  • Evolution of Human Aggression.

What is an example of social influences? ›

Most of us encounter social influence in its many forms on a regular basis. For example, a student may alter his or her behavior to match that of other students in a class. The majority-held opinions of a group of friends are likely to inform the views of new members to that social group.

What phenomenon is also called informational social influence? ›

Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation. The term was coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: Science and Practice, and the concept is also known as informational social influence.

What is an example of informational influence? ›

Informational Influence (AO1/AO3)

An example of this is if someone was to go to a posh restaurant for the first time, they may be confronted with several forks and not know which one to use, so they might look to a near by person to see what fork to use first.

Why does informational social influence occur quizlet? ›

informational social influence occurs when people do not know the correct (or best) action to take. They look to the behavior of others as an important source of information, using it to choose appropriate courses of action for themselves.

What are some examples of conformity in school? ›

This type of conformity involves changing one's behavior in order to fit in with a group. For example, a teenager might dress in a certain style because they want to look like their peers who are members of a particular group.

What is the informational influence? ›

● Informational influence is conformity under acceptance of evidence about reality which has been provided by others (Myers, 2009).

What is the difference between informational and normative social influence quizlet? ›

- Normative influence: involves going along with the crowd in order to be liked and accepted. - Informational: going along with the crowd because you think the crowd knows more than you do. - is defined as a change in behavior due to the intentional influence of others.

What is informational influence in consumer behavior? ›

Informational influence refers to the provision of credible evidence of reality (Burnkrant and Cousineau 1975). It is important when consumers feel the need to make informed choices. They perceive the opinions or usage of products by those who are seen as credible as proof of a product's quality or characteristics.

What is the purpose and example of informative? ›

The purpose of the informative speech is to provide interesting, useful, and unique information to your audience. By dedicating yourself to the goals of providing information and appealing to your audience, you can take a positive step toward succeeding in your efforts as an informative speaker.

What is a short example of informative text? ›

Common examples of informational text include: newspapers. online articles. informational brochures.

What are the 4 most common forms of informative explanatory essays? ›

Summary: The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes.

What is 1 example of an informative speech? ›

A lecture given by a teacher in a high school or college class is an example of an informative speech. A manager in a retail store giving a presentation to her staff about how to explain a new product line to customers would also be an example of an informative speech.

What is informational report example? ›

Informational reports do not provide an analysis or interpretation of information and do not provide recommendations. An example of this type of “just the facts” report is a police accident report.

Which is an example of informative process analysis? ›

***Informative process analysis*** = how something works. Examples: how to make a relationship that lasts; how to lose a guy in 10 days; how to be happy in life. Textbook example = how a zamboni works.

What is informational support example? ›

When you receive an update from the news, follow an online exercise video, or read an article (like this one!), you're getting informational support. This is a great example of not needing to have an emotional connection to someone to be supported.

What does informational social influence lead to? ›

Informational social influence leads to real, long-lasting changes in beliefs. The result of conformity due to informational social influence is normally private acceptance : real change in opinions on the part of the individual.

What does informational mean in psychology? ›

Informational influence refers to new information or arguments provided in a group discussion that change a group member's attitudes, beliefs, or behavior.


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