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 research on social influence highlights normative social influence as a key factor in conformity, where individuals conform to the majority due to a fear of rejection or the desire to avoid being perceived as an outcast. This form of conformity is driven by a need to be liked, resulting in compliance with group norms and behaviors. Additionally, normative social influence often leads to temporary changes in views or behaviours.

On the other hand, informational social influence reveals another aspect of conformity, wherein individuals conform to the majority due to the acceptance of new information. The desire to be right plays a crucial role in this type of conformity, leading to internalisation of group norms and beliefs. Conforming for cognitive reasons in informational social influence results in a more enduring and permanent change in an individual's views and behaviours, reflecting a deeper integration of new information into their belief system. Overall, these insights from psychological research shed light on the multifaceted nature of conformity, encompassing both emotional and cognitive dimensions.

A drawback in explaining why people conform is the use of a broad approach known as a "nomothetic stance." This means trying to find general laws or principles that apply universally. In the case of conformity, this approach oversimplifies the various reasons why people might go along with others. The problem here is that it's tough to measure and tell apart the different motivations for conformity. Figuring out why someone conforms is tricky because emotions and thoughts play a role, and these can be complex and dependent on the situation.

To address this, researchers could consider taking an "idiographic stance." This means looking at each person's unique experiences and motivations. While theories like normative and informational social influence offer useful insights, adopting an idiographic approach allows us to better capture the individual complexities of why people conform. This shift in perspective helps us avoid oversimplifying and gives a more nuanced understanding of conformity. So, while caution is needed in interpreting findings, considering individual differences through an idiographic lens contributes to a richer comprehension of the diverse reasons behind conformity.

Adopting a nomothetic approach in comprehending why people conform brings forth its strengths. By seeking general laws or principles that hold universally, researchers can identify common patterns and overarching trends in social influence. This broad perspective allows for the development of theories, like normative and informational social influence, that furnish a foundational understanding of conformity across diverse contexts and populations. The nomothetic approach simplifies complex phenomena, making it easier to generate broad explanations and predictions about social behaviour. It offers a framework that helps researchers draw connections and establish general principles that contribute to our overall understanding of conformity. While recognising the limitations in capturing individual nuances, the nomothetic approach plays a crucial role in forming a foundational understanding of social influence dynamics on a broader scale, allowing for generalisations that can guide further exploration and practical applications.


Anna achieved an A* in Psychology in June 2023


We caught up with Anna to ask her some tips for psychology A-Level students all over the country. Here is what she said:

"I would highly recommend being exposed to as many model answers as possible. What I found was the more I kept seeing them, the easier it was for me to write. I also made use of revision books as they condensed so much information into really small chunks. Model essays and revision books are seriously the go-tos."


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