Normative Social Influence: Definition & Example

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  • 0:01 Following the Crowd
  • 1:17 Conforming When Others…
  • 2:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David McMillan
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.

Asch Line Study
Different Line Lengths Asch Study

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