Normative social influence is a type of conformity and provides one explanation for why people go along with group actions. In this lesson, you will learn the definition of normative social influence, explore a famous example, and take a quiz.
Following the Crowd
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations we don’t entirely understand. In these moments, we may look to others to decide how we should act. There might even be times where we feel we know how we should respond, but others don’t seem to be doing what we think they would do in that situation. In order to not feel uncomfortable, we might go along with the group.
Going along with a group, whether you think they are right or not, is known as conformity. While people conform all the time, there are many different reasons why they might conform. One reason people might conform is to avoid conflict. It is very possible that someone might know others are wrong about something, but he or she decides to follow the group anyway because they fear being laughed at, want everyone to be happy, or some other reason.When someone conforms to a group because they want to people to like them, this is known as normative social influence. Groups have a set of unwritten rules or behaviors they follow, and people often follow these rules subconsciously.
These basic unwritten behavioral guidelines in different groups and societies people tend to follow are known as norms. In order to remain liked by those around us, we want to follow these norms, so we conform to their behaviors.
Conforming When Others Are Wrong
An excellent example of normative social influence can be found in an experiment performed by Solomon Asch, a famous psychologist who studied conformity. One of his most well-known experiments had to do with people judging the lengths of lines.Asch gathered a participant and a few experimenters pretending to be participants into a room. They were shown a picture of three lines that were different lengths and were asked to compare those three lines with one other line. The experimenter would ask which of the three lines is closest in length to the other individual line.
At first, everyone said the correct line that most closely matched, but eventually the experimenters disguised as participants started saying the wrong line. Some of the actual participants started going along with the group.
They also started stating the wrong line.Asch found that there were various reasons why people decided to conform. One of those reasons is normative social influence. At first, some people would still say the correct line, even when the group disagreed.
However, after a while, some people started going along with the group. A number of participants stated that even though they knew the right answer, they just didn’t want to cause a problem or argue, so they decided to just agree with everyone. These people were following the norm and decided to go along with the crowd.
There are many reasons why people conform.
We define conformity as going along with a group regardless of whether or not you believe its members are right or wrong. One reasons people conform is because they feel uncomfortable not going along with a group, such as in Solomon Asch‘s famous line experiment.Everyone conforms at some point in their lives because we often look to other people to know how we should act. We call these unwritten guidelines norms.
By comparison, when people go along with a group because they want its members to like them, their behavior falls under the umbrella of normative social influence.