Outline and evaluate explanations of conformity. (12 marks) Normative social influence says people conform because they feel they need to be accepted and belong to the group. They accept the majorities’ views publicly, but privately they disagree – this type of conformity is compliance. The majority control the other group members, and use the fear of rejection to get others to conform. This is because humans are a social species and need companionship and are afraid of rejection. Research to support this explanation comes from Asch’s experiment, where participants knew the group was wrong privately but chose to conform in order to be accepted. This suggests that normative social influence is a valid theory of why people conform as it states we conform to be part of a social group, not because they believe the group to be right.
On the other hand, in real life they aren’t part of that social group so don’t fear rejection, so factors other than the group may influence conformity.
Another explanation of why people conform is informational social influence, where the individual changes their opinion both publicly and privately, which is described as internalisation. They do this as they believe the group are right. Conformity tends to increase when the situation is ambiguous, in matters of crisis or if they feel others are better qualified to make decisions.
Fein et al found that participant’s opinions of political candidates in a debate were influenced by the reaction of other participants. They observed the views of others, and changed their opinions accordingly, which supports the idea that informational social influence plays a role in influencing people if they’re unsure about what they believe.
Sherif’s research also supports this theory as he found that the main reason people followed the majority was because they wanted to use the group for information as they genuinely believed them to be right. This shows that the theory of informational...
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