Social Influence


This paper focuses on social influence and group processes. As you likely know from your own experience, the presence of others impacts an individual’s behavior, an individual’s behavior often impacts another’s, and individuals’ behaviors often impact that of an entire group.

Conformity is the tendency to change one’s beliefs or behaviors to match those of others. There are many theoretical reasons suggested by social psychologists for why people conform. Obedience is believing that a legitimate authority has the right to make a request and then adhering to this request. Social psychology studies the concept of obedience to help analyze the reasons that people disobey legitimate authority, as well as why people obey perceived authority, even when the requests go against their personal beliefs. In addition, various group processes affect whether people conform or obey in a given situation.

To prepare:

  • Review Chapters 8 and Chapter 9 of your course text, Social Psychology, focusing on the factors that are associated with social influence on behavior.
  • Think about examples in the news in which people did or did not demonstrate conformity or obedience.

Note: One way to find examples of news events for these concepts is to go to a major search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.), click on the “news” tab, and type in appropriate search terms.

By Day 3

Post a brief description of a contemporary example from the news in which people did or did not demonstrate conformity or obedience. Use a theory discussed in Chapter 8 to explain how or why the behavior illustrates conformity or obedience. Use information from Chapter 9 to explain how being in a group might influence behaviors in your example. That is, in your example, how might group processes, characteristics, or functions explain behavior? (+/- 700 words)

Sources to be used:

Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Sommers, S. (2016).
Social psychology (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

  • Chapter 8, “Conformity: Influencing Behavior”
  • Chapter 9, “Group Processes: Influence in Social Groups”

Optional Resources

Beersma, B., & Van Kleef, G. A. (2011). How the grapevine keeps you in line: Gossip increases contributions to the group.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(6), 642–649.

Se Hyung, O. (2013). Do collectivists conform more than individualists? Cross-cultural differences in compliance and internalization.
Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 41(6), 981–994.

Stallen, M., De Dreu, C. K. W., Shalvi, S., Smidts, A., & Sanfey, A. G. (2012). The herding hormone: Oxytocin stimulates in group conformity.
Psychological Science, 23(11), 1288–1292.

Serendip Studio. (2005).
The prisoner’s dilemma [Online game]. Retrieved from