Social Influences


Group Processes
Attitudes & Their Social Origins
- Social Cognition
- Attribution Theory

Self and Culture

Cultural Psychology

Social Influence
-Brain Washing

Social Relations
- Aggression
- Attraction

1936 - Sherif's moving light in a dark room, were asked to estimate the distance moved. Upon later trials, done in groups of three, found group convergence of answers to distance moved.

Asch's 1952 study
Asked to judge which line is same as the standard line, subjects were faced with a room full of confederates who gave 'canned' answers. 37% of subject went along with false answer on third or later trials.
  See you Tube

Conformity increases to group size of about 5 then only small increase to about 7, then slight drop off with larger groups

One Dissenter in the group will reduce conformity by 80%

Difficulty of task also plays a role for conformity

Informational influence - information is the source of influence and reason for alterations. Conformity as believe others know truth.

Normative influence - desire for belonging or fear of social rejection is motivation for alterations and conformity.

May also have public (face only) conformity or private (attitudinal) conformity.

Obedience - Milgram's study

Subjects thought they were teachers in a learning experiment, but actually were being tested whether or not they would 'follow orders' as indicated by the researcher. Thought they were administering shock of increasing voltage to 'learner' who was not learning. 

Original Study   Replicating Milgram &   the remake

-Every subject administered at least one shock to learner and 66% gave all of the shock to XXX danger.

-Many subjects were visibly upset by having to give such shocks, but continued with their orders.

Later studies on obedience have revealed that nothing the victim said or did reduced the subject's compliance with authority.

Subjects were more likely to disobey when:
-authority figure was not present (ordinary other)

-two authorities (experimenters) issued conflicting commands

-coworkers or peers of subject had dissented from continuation

-subject was present in same room as subject

-situation was located in downtown office vs. university campus

Following Burger's (2009) replication there are suggestions that obedience declined slightly, possibly due to includion of women and Asian and Latino participants. Some have considered national personality differences but not found.

Roles and their Importance

Roles are positions in society and collections of behaviours and attitudes that are expected to be a part of them, based upon social norms.

Legitimation of authority in a role provides more obedience through the deference of responsibility to authority.

Normalization or making routine the behaviour makes it acceptable.

Expectations of Good Manners - part of 'social' roles that we play so we don't protest or complain to keep face.

Entrapment through escalation of demands, start with foot in door then move to more serious requests.

Standford Prison Experiment 

Zimbardo's prison study involved the assignment of roles to students as prisoners or guards. In this realistic study the subjects soon took their roles with a seriousness that lead to the premature discontinuation of the study. The lucifer effect 

-Some prisoners quickly became distressed, helpless, and panicked while others became rebellious and angry

-Many of the prisoners begged to be let out of the study

-Guards became serious, many tyrannical and abusive with enjoyment

Situations and roles demonstrated to be extremely powerful.

Students played roles they had learned from the media?

However recent criticism regarding this study has called it into question along with other studies regarding the "replication crisis" in psychology and other sciences.

Dr. Z & 2

Group Processes

Bystander intervention does occur at times, however other times people ignore others clearly in need of help.  The more people present does not usually mean the greater chance for help, best when alone. Kitty Video

Diffusion of responsibility the more people present the easier it is to avoid taking responsibility.  During these times people may act in ways that does not fit with their usual moral standards.

Deindividuation - is the loss of personal responsibility and individual choice through breakdown of social and internal restraints against deviant or destructive behaviour, including failure to help others. Feel anonymous and loss of self-consciousness .
This explains the Vancouver Hockey Riots -
What would you do if you were invisible for 24 hours?

Social facilitation - generally speaking, people will perform better on easy tasks in the presence of others as in bicycle races(Triplett, 1897).

Social loafing - sometimes people tend to work less hard in group situations.  having other members of the team or group pull their weight.

Groupthink a process of some groups where dangerous outcomes may arise through overconfidence, conformity, self-justification, the group loses touch with reality.

Group  polarization occurs when group attitudes become more extreme following discussion, eg.

Attitudes and their social implications

Attitudes are relatively stable opinions that we have which are comprised of both cognitive and emotional components.

Vary in strength and flexibility of conviction and arise through social means such as cohort effects where a generational identity emerges: boomers, gen-X or gen-Y

Attitudes often influence behaviour, more often behaviour influences attitudes.

Cognitive Dissonance is said to occur when two contradictory attitudes are being held at the same time, or when behaviour and attitudes diverge. Thought that people are motivated to reduce dissonance.

Social Cognition

Social Cognition - examines the effect of social situations or influences on thought, memory & perception.

Attribution Theory - involves understanding the ways in which motivation can alter our perceptions of responsibility for ourselves and others.

Kelly's Attribution Model

Three characteristics lead to personal or situational attributions


Consensus Consistency  Outcome 
Low - other people don't High - P always does  this Personal Attribution 
High - other people do Low - P doesn't always do this Situational Attribution 


Attributions are the implicit or explicit statements about causality and the source of human action or responsibility.

Situational attributions occur when one identifies some environmental factor as the cause of action or behaviour.

Dispositional attributions are made when one's actions are deemed to be the direct result of a personal trait or motive.

Fundamental Attribution Error occurs when one tends to overestimate the dispositional factors and underestimate the situational factors when explaining someone else's behaviour.

Self-Serving Bias occurs when one explains one's own failures to the situation and successes to one's own personal characteristics.

-Both tend to be more prevalent in 'western' countries

Just-World Hypothesis occurs when one believes that the world is a fair and just place and that people get what they deserve. >Victim blame occurs when one believes that the world is a fair and just place and that people get what they deserve.

Self, Culture and Attribution

Americans (independent self) make more personal attributions while Indians (interdependent self) make more situational attributions.

Heine (2012) - examines these and other cross-cultural comparisons regarding self.

For example, differences in attributions of success among Olympic athletes: American Misty Hyman (swiiming) and Japanese Naoko Takahashi (marathon).

The American says "I stayed focused" "this was my night", the Japanese says "Here is the best coach in the world, the best manager in the world, and all the best people who support me"

Self as constructed by cultural forces also gives rise to our emotional experiences and other factors of thought and behaviour.


Acculturation is what happens when people from different cultures come into continuous first hand contact. It gives rise to changes in self and identity as well as social dynamics and cultural changes.


Berry's Scheme of Acculturative Attitude Styles (Berry, 1997)

Is it considered to be of value to maintain
cultural identity and characteristics?




Is it considered
to be of value to maintain




relationships with
other (host) groups





Integration approach suggests the synthesis of various facets  of identity that one finds in each of the two (or more) traditions,  often into a novel style of living through these traditions.

is most desired by the "multicultural assumption" of maintenance and
contact leading to a positive identity and tolerance of others (Berry 1984, 1997)

Separation occurs when there is a group that is in an inferior position
of power desires to maintain traditions and not have contact.

In contrast Segregation occurs when the group's relative dominance
(in terms of social and economic systems) is that of a superior position.

Essentially involves the maintenance of traditional cultural behavioural patterns, values and identities without the acceptance of the behaviours, values or identities of others.

Assimilation occurs when there is a desire to adopt the 'host' traditions and practices while relinquishing one's own.

Assimilation refers to the classic "melting-pot" outcome of acculturation whereby groups and individuals forego  the maintenance of their traditional ethno-cultural heritages and take on the cultural ways of the host society.

Official Canadian policy prior to the 1971 introduction of the Policy on Multiculturalism, and it continues to be the  'Official Policy' of the United States.

Marginalisation "is difficult to define precisely, possibly because it is  accompanied by a good deal of collective and individual confusion and anxiety.

It is characterised by striking out  against the larger society and by feelings of alienation,  loss of identity, and what has been termed acculturative stress." (1989, p. 4, emphasis original).


New Directions from Cultural Psychology, at the nexus of the collective and the individual life.  It lies between these pairs:

Collective  Individual 
Group Mind Subjective Experience 
Social Movements Roles & Relations 
"Zeitgeist"  Shared Experience (language) 

Michael Cole (1996) - Cultural Psychology as examining the

Co-evolution of culture and consciousness as mediated by artifacts filled with meaning.

Artifacts exist as: objects (primary); scripts, recipes and rule (secondary); as well as art, play and games (tertiary) forms that are part of cultural history.

Social Influence
Persuasion - is often friendly when likelihood of acceptance increases with repetition of information.

Can take central or peripheral routes to persuasion, direct and indirect.

Foot-in-the-door phenomenon - When people agree to a small request they are more likely to agree to a larger one.
Let's make a deal.

Model or source of information may also have impact if seen as likable or credible.

Message is important, try to keep it simple during persuasion with some foundation in the audience beliefs or values, moderate change.

Audience characteristics are important and must be considered.

Classical conditioning - pairing of idea or product with pleasure increases persuasion also using fear with negative messages.

Fear can also be paired with attitudes, however people may resist the fear arousing information if the anxiety is too strong or if there is no information on avoidance.

Coercive persuasion - Brain Washing

-usually under physical or emotional distress

-problems are defined as being simple and simplistic answers are repeatedly offered.

-leader (recruiter) offers attention & unconditional love and acceptance.

-group identity if offered was a resolution to problems.

-access to information or freedom is limited.

 Media Propaganda

Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent >9-11 >Today?
Fake News and Alternate Facts
Joel Bakan's The Corporation.... # 9(911$), #17(News?), #19(Nazi$)


Social Relations

Prejudice is the general phenomenon of pre-judging and can be explained through a number of theories.


- is seen by many as a natural state and helping others is only in our own self-interest (See Richard Dawkins - the inventor of memes).  Thus psychology considers altruism and aggression as the main topics of positive and negative social action.

Biological roots are suggested where the Freudian notion of innate aggression.

Male sex hormone (testosterone-and anabolic steroids) produce aggression and hostility.

Neurological roots of aggression - Amygdala stimulation or brain damage or alcohol use that leads to disinhibition of aggression.

Frustration-aggression hypothesis or the modified Freudian view that frustrations in our lives need venting so we redirect our frustrations on to others in the form of aggression.

Summer time, more heat and discomfort, more frustration, more aggression.

Situational Cues - weapons in the environment lead to greater use of them.
Modelling - Bandura suggests that we learn to act aggressively through watching and copying the behaviour of others.

Slife (1997) Taking sides: Does TV increase child's aggression?

Likewise video games and priming of violence have been found where whose who play more violent video games are more likely to act agressively and will be desinsitized to violoence (normalized).

Also cultural standards play a role as described by Nisbett & Cohen (1996) where some cultures value "honour" and will act aggressively if offended.


Priming and the Mere exposure effect - when we are repeatedly exposed to astimulus we will come to like it over less familiar stimuli (people, pictures,...)

Physical Attractiveness - many univseral characteristics (smooth skin, high cheek bones, big eyes) but also many cultural variations on beauty.

Other factors involved in liking:

Proximity or nearness of living - we tend to make friends with those who live nearby Festinger et al. (1950)

- However, Francis Cherry (1992) indicates that other factors  (such as having children) may have been more important inthis study.

Similarity has also been identified whereby we tend to like people who are similar to us in appearance, interests, behaviours and values.

Reciprocity or the tendency to act in like manners to those which we have been treated (giving what we receive) also helps to establish and maintain social bonds.

Ingratiation or giving complements or"kissing up to someone" in order to get them to like you or do something, but it can also lead to a sense of "being played"  leading to reactance or a negative response.

General Arousal has also been seen to be involved in attraction through a misattribution of emotions to the person (Dutton & Aron, 1974).