Psychologists investigating social influence have discovered several reasons why people conform. Discuss what psychological research has told us about why people conform. (Total 16 marks)
Psychological studies on social influence tell us that people conform for two main reasons: normative social influence and informational social influence.
Normative social influence happens when individuals go along with the majority because they're scared of being rejected or seen as an outsider. Wanting to be liked by others is a big factor, making people comply with group rules. This kind of conformity is all about emotions, causing a short-term change (compliance) in what someone thinks or does.
On the flip side, informational social influence occurs when people conform because they accept new information from the majority. Wanting to be right and follow accurate knowledge leads to adopting the group's norms. This kind of conformity is more about thinking, resulting in a lasting change (Internalisation) in someone's views or actions.
Understanding these psychological insights helps us see how people navigate social situations, driven either by the need for emotional acceptance or the desire for accurate knowledge.
Looking at why people conform in different ways, the idea of locus of control, suggested by Rotter in 1966, becomes important. Locus of control means how much someone believes they control their own life. If someone has an internal locus of control, they think their actions largely determine what happens in their life. Connecting this to research on conformity, those with an internal locus of control might not conform as much due to the fear of being rejected or the wish for approval. This is because they believe their actions have a bigger impact, and external approval matters less to them. However, they might be more influenced by informational social influence, wanting to be right and well-informed. So, the theory of locus of control helps us see how personal differences affect whether someone conforms emotionally or cognitively, and how this fits with what we know from psychological research.
Building on the earlier discussion about why people conform and the idea of locus of control, it's important to talk about the difficulties in figuring out and telling apart the reasons behind conformity. This is tricky because people's behaviours are complex, and lots of different things, like personal differences and the situation, play a role. Locus of control, a psychological idea, doesn't always neatly put people into categories of having control over their lives or not, as beliefs can change in different areas. Also, the reasons for conforming, whether emotional or cognitive, often mix together, making it hard to separate them. Researchers struggle to untangle these different factors, and the fact that people's behaviours are always changing adds another layer of difficulty. Social context and cultural influences also make it tough to measure why people conform, as these things can be different in various societies. Understanding these challenges is crucial for improving our knowledge of conformity and making sure research considers the complicated and interconnected reasons why people choose to conform.