Informative social influence: what is it and how does it affect the way we think?

Informative social influence occurs when the subject leaves his opinion and accepts that of the group, because believing that he is more successful, an internal change occurs. This process is known as conversion, where we observe compliance with the private group.

Social influence happens more than we think or would like to happen, because as social beings we are affected by the judgments that express our environment. Different research has been conducted to verify this influence, observing different ways of acting and different factors that affect how the group influences.

In this article we will see what is meant by informative social influencewho exerts a social influence, what is conformity and what variables influence it, and what is the difference between the two social influences.

    What is informative social influence?

    Informative influence, also known as social proof or social demonstration, is a type of agreement that is given to the group. In this case one perceives a private conformity, since the change of opinion of the subject is internal; the individual accepts the judgment of the group as more valid than his own. This process is known as conversion.

    On the other hand, we mean by social influence the change in a person’s opinions, judgments, ideas or attitudes when exposed to the judgments, attitudes or opinions of others. In other words, it is the modification of our beliefs, our way of thinking or our behavior regarding the effect that society has on us.

    Although we humans do not like to believe that our behavior or the way we act and think is influenced by society, this event constantly occurs in our daily lives, when we buy a product, request a service or watch simply television, we are constantly there received opinions from others which, to a greater or lesser degree, influence us. We must not forget that we are social beings; we feel the need to relate to other individuals of our species, and it is inevitable that they will influence us.

      Who exercises social influence?

      When we think of social influence, the first idea that comes to mind is related to the effect produced by a larger group, i.e. the majority, an individual or a smaller group, the minority. But this influence can be two-way, because even if it seems more difficult, using the necessary mode and components, a small group of people can influence the majority group.

      Thus, depending on the size of the group that exerts the influence we will consider that there is conformity if it is linked to the majority or innovation if, on the contrary, the change is linked to the minority.


        As we have seen, conformity occurs under the influence of the majority. This effect produced by the majority group has been verified in various research, such as that carried out by the psychologist Muzafer Sherifwhich was based on the autokinetic effect, which consists of the perception of an erratic movement when a luminous point is placed on a dark background.

        In the sheriff’s experiment, two groups were formed; one carried out the test first accompanied by other subjects then alone, and the other group did the reverse process, first alone then accompanied. The results showed that when these subjects were studied first alone and then in a group, a personal norm was formed first, and that in the second condition, in a group, one tried to reach a shared position with the others. In place, when they started the experiment in group mode, a group norm had already formed that persisted in the individual situation.

        Previous research concludes that when faced with an ambiguous, abstract stimulus, subjects tend to be guided by the opinions of others, but the surprising thing was that they accepted and also accepted the opinions of others when the stimulus was clear. and objective. knew that the others were wrong. This influence is particularly interesting, because even if we know that others are wrong, we prefer to accept your opinion.

        Another well-known experiment to test majority conformity was conducted by psychologist Solomon Ash. The test was easy, it consisted in identifying, from three lines placed together, which one was as long as another line that was shown to the subject. As expected, the control group performed best with an error rate of only 0.7%. In place, in the experimental situation where the subject had to give his answer publicly the error rate increased to 37%.

        The increase in error observed in Asch’s experiment was a consequence of the influence received by the majority: in this experiment the group was complicit and therefore several people gave an intentionally false answer, surprisingly causing the experimental subject to accept the others’ answer even though he felt it was the wrong one.. This research was the starting point for others, such as those carried out to check whether compliance was given in private or only in public, that is, whether the individual’s opinion really changes or not.

          Variables that influence compliance

          Asch’s study and subsequent research showed that public compliance is more powerful than private compliance. That is, it happens more often. However, different variables have been observed that will affect compliance, and one of them is the number of subjects that make up the group. As expected, if there are more people exerting pressure (voluntary or involuntary), more influence will be given, but it does not increase proportionally: from three subjects, adding one more affects less and less.

          Related to the number of subjects, it will also be important for them to be seen as independent individuals, not to present themselves as a group and an opinion as a whole, but to give their own. If they are perceived as independent, more conformity will appear.

          Another factor is the presence of an accomplice. If one adds a subject who gives his opinion earlier and corresponds to that of the experimental individual, the conformity decreases.

          Similarly, intrapersonal variables affect: perceived competence in relation to others and self-confidence influence conformity. If the subject has a better perception of himself, conformity with the group will be less.

            Informative influence and normative influence

            We see how individuals are influenced by our environment, and in this sense, to form an answer and believe that we are right the subject takes into account two variables. On the one hand, what he perceives through the senses, linked to the most objective part; And on the other hand what other people think or say. According to which of the two variables is the strongest, we will speak of normative influence or of informative influence already mentioned.

            The main difference between the two types of influence lies in the fact that the subject accepts the opinion of others because he trusts the judgment of others more than his own (in this case, as we already know, we we refer to informative influence) or he wants to be accepted by others and seen as someone who supports the group and thinks like them (This time the type of influence is called normative, since the goal is to follow the social norm to be perceived positively).

            In this way, the change that occurs in each type of influence is different. In the case of the informative influence, the subject leaves its opinion to accept the one of the group, taking place as much a change of thought as of external conduct. On the contrary, in the normative influence where the objective is to avoid rejection and to satisfy the group the individual will only modify the visible behavior; your inner thought will remain the same, yoursy.

            Also in both cases the conformity is observed, but in the informative influence we will consider it to be of a private type, since an internal change occurs. This process is known as conversion, the subject converts his opinion. For its part, regulatory influence leads to public compliance, since he only modifies his behavior in front of others; this process is known as submission, it is submitted to please.

            The two previous processes, submission and conversion, are independent. This independence is seen when we compare the influence of the majority and the minority. In the case of the effect produced by the large group, we see how submission generally appears, that is, the normative influence (the subject changes externally). On the contrary, the minority obliges the subject to reflect and to be able to accept his opinion, and thus will operate an internal change, a conversion, without this one having to be expressed outside.

            Bibliographic references

            • Golda, C. (2014) Informational Social Influence and the Internet: Manipulation in a Consumer Society. Towson University Graduate Studies Office.
            • Lord, K., Soo Lee, M. and Choong, P. (2001) Differences in Normative and Informational Social Influence. Advances in consumer research.
            • Cohen, J. and Golden, E. (1972) Informational social influence and product evaluation. Journal of Applied Psychology.
            • Rivas, MªE., López, M. and González, MªR. (2018) CEDE PIR Preparation Manual. Social and organizational psychology. CEDE: 5ª Edition.

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