Have you ever felt you had to change how you dressed to fit in with friends or people at school? Or have you ever been unsure about what to do, so you look to see what other people are doing? These all have one thing in common: normative social influence.
- We will start by discussing the normative social influence definition.
- Then we will discuss the differences between normative and informational social influence.
- After we investigate the link between the Asch study (1955) and normative social influence, in this we will give a brief Asch conformity experiment summary and the Asch experiment results.
Normative Social Influence Definition
Have you ever done something you didn’t like because your friends wanted to do it? It could be dressing in a way you don’t like to match their style or stealing from a store because they wanted you to. You know that behaviour is wrong but do it anyway to fit in with your friends.
Normative social influence is when a person conforms to specific behaviours to fit in and be accepted by a group. Typical reasons for this are social desires to be accepted and fear of rejection if they do not conform to similar behaviours and attitudes.
Normative social influence is the pressure that causes us to conform to others to fit in. In normative social influence, we don’t agree with our behaviour but do it to be accepted by a group.
Chances are, you see a lot of normative social influence in secondary school. Have you ever seen the movie Mean Girls? In Mean Girls, Cady tries to fit in with the popular girls, causing her to change how she dresses, eats, and acts. By the end, Cady reverts to how she dressed in the beginning, showing that she knew that conforming wasn’t right for her but rather done only to get socially accepted by the popular girls.
Normative Social Influence vs Informational Social Influence
The other main type of social influence is informational social influence. While normative and informational social influence results in the person conforming, there are different reasons for conformity.
As we reviewed earlier, normative social influence happens when someone conforms to fit into a group. The person might not necessarily agree with what they conform to, but they are doing so to try to fit in.
Informational social influence happens for an entirely different reason.
Informational social influence occurs when the person is trying to be right and is looking to other people for information they don’t have.
Fig. 1. What do you do when you see a crowded store?
For example, you walk around a shopping centre and pass a usually empty store. However, when you walk by the store today, it is very crowded, with a long line of people. You might pop in to see what is happening inside the store.
Is there a new phone, clothing, or game there? When you go inside to look around, you have been influenced informationally. You’re assuming that the people in the store know more than you do, so you follow their behaviour and go into the store.
Both of these types of social influence are prevalent in our daily lives. While they are different, they share the similarity of knowing that you are conforming. When you walk into the store, you know you’re going in because other people are there.
There’s a third type of social influence that’s not as talked about as normative and informational. It’s called automatic social influence. Automatic social influence happens when you see someone do a behaviour, and you automatically imitate that behaviour. Think about yawning. Do you ever yawn after watching someone else yawn?
Asch’s 1951 Study and Normative Social Influence
Now that we better understand normative social influence, let’s look at one of its most famous studies, Asch’s 1955 conformity study.
Solomon Asch was a Polish-American psychologist who was influential in studying a wide range of psychological topics but is renowned for his work in conformity (and social influence). Asch was curious about a group’s effects on an individual’s conformity levels and designed a study around that idea.
Asch created his study in response to Sherif’s (1935) autokinetic conformity experiment, in which Sherif asked participants how much a stationary projected light on a screen appeared to move. Asch believed conformity was theoretically impossible because there was no correct answer to the task in Sherif’s experiment, making it more challenging to know whether participants had confirmed.
With his study, Asch wanted to find out how strong the effects of conformity were even when there was an obvious answer to the task.
He thought that even if the participants knew the correct answer in a group, the effects of normative social influence would be too strong, so that the participants would conform to the wrong answer.
Asch’s Conformity Experiment Summary
To start the experiment, Asch gathered participants from the student body at Swarthmore College, where he was employed.
Asch told his participants they would partake in an experiment centred around a vision test.
The participants were put into a group with seven other participants and informed they would judge the lengths of lines. They were given sheets of paper with four lines printed on them. One line was the target line, and the others were marked A, B, and C.
Participants had to name the line that corresponded to the target line. The participants stated their answers out loud so everyone in the group could hear what they thought. Each participant would go through multiple trials.
Fig. 2. The participants sat at a table, all hearing the others’ answers. Pixabay.com.
However, that’s the deception that Asch told the participants. Here’s what really happened.
Asch recruited his participants by telling them it was an experiment on vision, but in reality; it was a conformity test. The other seven participants in the room were confederates, members of the research team who were told beforehand how to answer each question. Asch instructed the confederates to say the correct answer initially, but as more trials went on, they were all told to answer incorrectly, despite the correct answer.
This section of the experiment -- when the confederates were answering incorrectly -- was the part that Asch was studying. Would the participants conform to the social influence of their peers or stay with the answer they knew was right?
Remember, this is a normative social influence because the participant knows the correct answer and is potentially choosing the wrong answer to fit in.
Results of Asch’s Experiment
Would you have conformed to the wrong answer in this experiment?
If you were anything like Asch’s participants, you would have conformed. Even though there was an obvious answer to the line question, 74% of the participants answered incorrectly at least once when the confederates responded poorly. This result shows that while many participants did a handful of trials without conforming, they succumbed to the pressure at least once, despite knowing they were giving the incorrect answer.
Fig. 3 A diagram example of Asch’s line experiment
This result shows the impact of normative social influence and conformity on groups. This result becomes more impactful than the control group (without confederates), where only 1% of the participants answered incorrectly.
These findings support the claim that people are more likely to conform to a group, even if they know they are wrong. What is more impressive is that the participants were in a group of strangers! Do you think they would have conformed more or less to a group of people they knew?
Asch’s success in this study influenced the development of what we know today as social psychology. Additionally, his research influenced later studies, such as Stanley Milgram’s shock experiment.
Asch’s Additional Studies
Asch ran additional experiments with changes to the setup to see if other related factors impact conformity.
In one of Asch’s subsequent studies, he found that the participants’ conformity peaked at three confederates and then plateaued after three. This result means that in a laboratory setting like Asch, it only took a smaller group of confederates to get the same results as the initial larger group.
Another study looked at unanimity. When just one confederate agreed with the participant, the conformity rate dropped from 76% to 5%. Additionally, conformity rates dropped (to 9%) when one confederate gave a different answer from the participant and the group. This finding suggests that social influence is significantly reduced when there is just one dissenter in a group.
Finally, conformity increased when the task was harder, making the answer less obvious to participants. This result could be an example of informational social influence, which occurs when someone is unsure of their knowledge and looks to the information of others for help.
Normative Social Influence - Key takeaways
- Normative social influence is the pressure that causes us to conform to others to fit in even though we know what we’re doing isn’t right.
- Informational social influence is looking to others for information we don’t have and copying their behaviour.
- Asch studied conformity and normative social influence by having participants in a room with confederates and asking them to match one line to three others. He wondered whether the participants would conform to the confederates’ wrong answers.
- Asch found that 74% of the participants conformed at least once.
- Asch ran other variations of his experiment and found that one dissenter drops conformity rates, a more challenging task increases conformity rates, and conformity rates stay the same with three or more confederates in the room.
What is normative social influence with example? ›
Normative social influence is usually associated with compliance, where a person changes their public behavior but not their private beliefs. For example, a person may feel pressurised to smoke because the rest of their friends are.What is a normative influence example? ›
An example of normative social influence is peer pressure, or the desire to be liked and “belong” to a group. In short, you adhere to the norms of a group so you are accepted and are not subject to social ridicule for being an outsider.What is normative social influence? ›
Normative social influence involves a change in behaviour that is deemed necessary in order to fit in a particular group. The need for a positive relationship with the people around leads us to conformity.What is normative social influence in psychology simple definition? ›
Normative Influence is conformity based on one's desire to fulfill others' expectations and gain acceptance (Myers, 2009).What are 2 examples of a social norm? ›
Social norms are unwritten rules of behavior shared by members of a given group or society. Examples from western culture include: forming a line at store counters, saying 'bless you' when someone sneezes, or holding the door to someone entering a building right after you.Which is the best example of a social norm? ›
- Shaking hands when greeting someone.
- Saying "please" and "thank you"
- Apologizing when one makes a mistake.
- Standing up when someone enters the room.
- Making eye contact during a conversation.
- Listening when someone is speaking.
- Offering help when someone is struggling.
- Respecting personal space.
An example of a normative economic statement is: "The government should provide basic healthcare to all citizens." As you can deduce from this statement, it is value-based, rooted in personal perspective, and satisfies the requirement of what "should" be.What is normative influence mean? ›
Definition. Normative influence refers to the fact that people sometimes change their behavior, thoughts, or values to be liked and accepted by others. This results in conformity, in the form of individuals altering their utterances or demeanor to be more like what they perceive to be the norm.What is an example of social influence? ›
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 does socially normative mean? ›
A social norm exists when individuals practise a behaviour because they believe that others like them or in their community practise the behaviour (descriptive norms), or because they believe that those who matter to them approve of them practising the behaviour (injunctive norm).
What is normative social influence quizlet? ›
What is normative social influence? A form of influence whereby an individual conforms to the majority in order to gain approval and acceptance.What is an example of normative conformity? ›
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.
These are customary standards for behavior that are widely shared by members of a culture. In many cases, normative social influence serves to promote social cohesion. When a majority of group members conform to social norms, the group generally becomes more stable.What does normative mean in psychology? ›
adj. relating to a norm: pertaining to a particular standard of comparison for a person or group of people, often as determined by cultural ideals regarding behavior, achievements or abilities, and other concerns.Which is an example of the influence of social norms quizlet? ›
1) The Bad, people are easily influenced by bad social norms. (EXAMPLE: Students following the norm while debating a criminal case/punishment are rewarded.) 2) The Good - social norms can be used to promote good behavior.What are the four types of norms give examples? ›
What are the 4 types of norms? The four types of social norms are: folkways, mores, taboos, and laws. Folkways are standard behaviours which people follow in their everyday life, while interacting with the society.What are some examples of social norms in school? ›
Some examples of general class norms are: “be a good neighbor,” “respect others and yourself,” and “be kind.” Norms written at a specific level identify distinct behaviors, such as “raise hand before talking,” or “walk in the hallways,” and are usually only applicable in particular situations.What are some examples of social norms in America? ›
- Be Punctual. With how laid-back and happy-go-lucky Americans are, you'd think that they won't care about punctuality. ...
- Only Smoke in Designated Places. ...
- Make Plans Before You Visit Someone's Home. ...
- Avoid Divisive Topics. ...
- Always Leave a Tip.
For example, you should not do anything that breaks a law, disrupts a class* or public event, involves sexual behavior or sexually explicit speech, hurts or threatens others, or includes taking or damaging other people's property -- such norm violations will result in a grade of zero.How do social norms influence behavior? ›
Social norms can affect nearly any aspect of our lives. They contribute to our clothing choices, how we speak, our music preferences, and our beliefs about certain social issues. They can also affect our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to violence.
What are three examples of cultural norms? ›
Social influence is ubiquitous in human societies. It takes a wide variety of forms, including obedience, conformity, persuasion, social loafing, social facilitation, deindividuation, observer effect, bystander effect, and peer pressure.Which action is the best example of social influence? ›
Which action is the best example of social influence? changing your behavior to conform to your church group. Which proverb BEST describes the research findings concerning attraction?What are some examples of influences? ›
- Society. The systems, norms and shared meaning of a nation or civilization. ...
- Culture. Culture are systems of norms and shared meaning that often have far more flexible membership than society. ...
- Social Status. ...
- Cultural Capital. ...
- Persuasion. ...
- Knowledge. ...
- Education. ...
Definition. Normative influence refers to the fact that people sometimes change their behavior, thoughts, or values to be liked and accepted by others. This results in conformity, in the form of individuals altering their utterances or demeanor to be more like what they perceive to be the norm.What is the definition of normative social influence quizlet? ›
What is normative social influence? A form of influence whereby an individual conforms to the majority in order to gain approval and acceptance.