Resistance to Social Influence - Social Support
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Last updated 22 Mar 2021
Asch’s (1951) research demonstrates the power of social influence through conformity and his variations provide an insight into how group size, unanimity and task difficult can increase or decrease the influence of the majority. Milgram (1963) on the other hand, highlights our susceptibility to obeying orders and his variations reveal the different variables that can increase or decrease our willingness to follow orders.
Since Asch and Milgram’s research, psychologists have examined explanations of resistance to social influence, our willingness to conform or obey, including social support and locus of control.
One reason that people can resist the pressure to conform or obey is if they have an ally, someone supporting their point of view. Having an ally can build confidence and allow individuals to remain independent.
Individuals who have support for their point of view no longer fear being ridiculed, allowing them to avoid normative social influence. Furthermore, individuals who have support for their point of view are more likely to disobey orders.
Evidence for this explanation comes from one of Asch’s (1951) variations. In one of the variations, one of the confederates was instructed to give the correct answer throughout. In this variation the rate of conformity dropped to 5%. This demonstrates that if the real participant has support for their belief (social support), then they are likely more likely to resist the pressure to conform.
Furthermore, evidence for this explanation comes from Milgram (1974). In one of Milgram’s variations, the real participant was paired with two additional confederates, who also played the role of teachers. In this variation, the two additional confederates refused to go on and withdrew from the experiment early. In this variation, percentage of real participants who proceeded to the full 450 volts, dropped from 65% (in the original) to 10%. This shows that if the real participant has support for their desire to disobey, then they are more likely to resist the pressure of an authority figure.
Variations from Asch and Milgram suggest that if an individual has social support then they are likely to resist the pressure to conform or obey.