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Chapter 6

  1. There are three types of social influence. Conformity involves a change in a person's attitudes or behavior in response to (often implicit) pressure from others. Compliance involves going along with explicit requests made by others. Finally, obedience involves giving in to the commands of an authority.

  2. There are three sources of conformity. Sometimes people conform mindlessly and automatically, when the very perception of someone else's behavior makes them more likely to behave that way themselves (the principle of ideomotor action). Other times, people conform because of informational social influence—that is, they look upon the actions of others as information about what is best to do. Still other times people conform because of normative social influence—that is, out of concern for the social consequences of their actions.

  3. Several characteristics of the group affect conformity pressure. The larger the group size, the greater its influence—but only up to a size of about four people. Unanimous groups are far more effective than those with even a single other dissenter. Moreover, the greater the expertise and status of group members, the greater their influence.

  4. Culture and gender affect conformity. People from more interdependent cultures are more likely to conform than people from independent cultures. Women are somewhat more likely to conform than men. But both men and women conform more in domains in which they are less knowledgeable.

  5. Several task factors affect conformity pressure. The more difficult and ambiguous the task is, as with the autokinetic experiment, the greater the conformity. When people's responses are anonymous, they are less affected by others' responses. Finally, when people have satisfying explanations of others' judgments, such as monetary gain, they are less affected by others' responses.

  6. The direction of influence is not always from the majority to the minority. Sometimes minority influence can be substantial, especially when it is a consistent minority.

  7. The study of obedience has been dominated by the experiments of Stanley Milgram, who documented that most participants go along with potentially harmful commands of an authority.

  8. Participants in obedience experiments are caught in a conflict between two opposing forces: normative social influence and moral imperatives. To modify the strength of these forces, participants tend to tune out the learner and to tune in the experimenter.

  9. Although Milgram's results strike nearly everyone as wildly counterintuitive, they can be rendered less surprising by considering the stepwise nature of his commands, the attempts to terminate the experiment made by most participants, and the ability of participants to place the onus of responsibility on the experimenter, not themselves.

  10. Compliance with the requests of others may be elicited through both reason-based techniques and emotion-based techniques.

  11. Powerful reason-based approaches include invoking the norm of reciprocity by, say, doing a favor for someone or making a concession (the door-in-the-face technique), and starting up a foot-in-the-door process by first getting someone to agree to a small request before making the more substantial request in which one is really interested.

  12. Powerful emotion-based approaches include getting the targeted person in a good mood, which is likely to increase compliance because of mood maintenance.

  13. Compliance may also result from a desire for negative state relief, as an act of compliance may reduce guilt or sadness.

  14. Sometimes attempts to influence us backfire, as when would-be influencers generate reactance. Our attempts to resist influence are aided by simple practice at it, by having an ally, by being wary of slippery slopes, and by avoiding action in the face of an emotional influence attempt by "sleeping on" the request.