Possible Social Influence Questions

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Conformity and minority influence

Explain what is meant by social influence.    (3)

Select two forms of social influence and explain the difference between them.  (3)

Outline one explanation of why people yield to majority influence and one explanation of why people yield to majority influence.   (3 + 3)

What is meant by: obedience, majority influence, minority influence?     (2 + 2 + 2)

Outline findings of research into conformity/majority influence.

Explain what is meant by the terms majority influence and minority influence, and give one difference between them.       (3 + 3)

Describe the procedures and findings of one study that has explored minority influence.

Give two criticisms of the study of minority influence you have described above.   (3 +3)

Outline two reasons why people yield to majority influence.    (3 + 3)

Briefly describe findings of research into minority influence.

Describe the aims and procedures of one study of minority influence.   (6)

Describe two explanations of why people yield to minority influence.   (3 + 3)

Research studies investigating conformity have often used laboratory-based experiments.

Explain two limitations of laboratory-based experiments into conformity.    (2 + 2 marks)

(a) What is meant by the term conformity?   (2 marks)

(b) (i) Identify the type of social influence illustrated in the situation described below. Refer to features of the situation to justify your answer.     (3 marks)


Situation A

Nazma had recently moved to a new area and school and was finding it difficult to make friends. She noticed that a large group of students had a strong allegiance to the local football team Vale City. Nazma purchased a replica team shirt and started to wear it daily to school. Almost immediately she was asked if she would like to attend games with fellow student supporters of the team. Nazma readily agreed, even though she actually had no interest or knowledge of football at all.

(ii) Identify the type of social influence illustrated in the situation described below. Refer to features of the situation to justify your answer.             (3 marks)

Situation B

Bryher has been invited out on a date by her new boyfriend who has taken her to a fashionable restaurant. Bryher is keen to make a good impression and not embarrass herself in any way. However, she has never been to a restaurant before and is alarmed at the vast array of cutlery and crockery placed before her. Bryher decides to observe other diners’ behaviour before selecting which utensils to eat her food with.


It is the first week of Sam’s new job. He arrives at work to find the other till operators all drinking coffee in the rest room, even though it is past the store opening time. He knows that this is frowned upon by the management but even so he joins them. Later in the day, he is asked to move from the tills to the shelf-stacking team as they are short staffed. He has not been trained for this, so at first he hangs back and watches what the others do and then follows their lead.

(a) From the description of Sam’s behaviour above, identify one example of normative social influence. Explain why you think this is an example of normative social influence.  (3 marks)

(b) From the description of Sam’s behaviour above, identify one example of informational social influence. Explain why you think this is an example of informational social influence.     (3 marks)

(c) Explain the difference between normative and informational social influence.  (3 marks)


Ali and Nadine are at a peace march in London. Ali has spent much of the day talking to other marchers about their views and beliefs and has agreed to march with them again the following week. Nadine has enjoyed the company of other marchers and is beginning to feel as if she is part of the group. When they discuss marching the next week, she does not commit herself and sign up for the march until she sees that most of the others are going to march again, whereas Ali is one of the first to sign up for the march next week.

Explain how social influence research can help us to understand Ali and Nadine's behaviour (6) 

What is meant by compliance in the context of conformity research?

Give a real-life example of compliance. (3 marks)

Distinguish one difference between informational and normative social influence (3 marks)

Outline two weaknesses of the prison study   (2 + 2)

In relation to Zimbardo’s prison study, define what’s meant by the dispositional and situational hypothesis.        (3 + 3 marks)


Obedience to authority

Describe the procedures and findings of one study that has explored obedience to authority. 

Outline two reasons why people obey.    (3 + 3)

Outline two psychological processes that may be involved in obedience to authority     (3 + 3)

Explain what is meant by the terms:

(i) experimental validity;

(ii) ecological validity.       (3 + 3)


Outline the findings from one study of obedience to authority and give one criticism of this study. (3 +3)

Outline one explanation of why people obey. (4 marks)

“Milgram’s research is of no value because it was conducted in a laboratory.”

Discuss the methodological difficulties faced by social psychologists conducting their research in a laboratory.                                                                                (5 marks)

Outline two explanations of obedience to an authority figure. (2 marks + 2 marks)

Define what is meant by the terms ‘obedience’, ‘experimental (external) validity’, and ‘demand characteristics.’                                               (2 + 2 + 2 marks)

Give two reasons for believing that Milgram’s experiments had ecological (external) validity. (2 + 2 marks)


When a teacher tells you to do something, it is usual for you to obey.

(a) Using your knowledge of factors that have been found to affect obedience, explain why you might obey in this situation.  (6 marks)

(b) In what ways would the situation have to change in order for you to resist the command?  (2 marks)


Milgram carried out an experiment investigating obedience. One criticism of this study is that it was unethical. Discuss one ethical issue raised by this research.   (4 marks)


Independent behaviour and social policy

Discuss the influence of individual differences on independent behaviour.  (8 marks)

Identify whether each of the statements below represents internal or external locus of control.

A Children get into trouble because their parents punish them too much.

B People’s misfortunes are the result of the mistakes they make.

C In the long run, people get the respect they deserve in this world.

D No matter how hard you try, some people just don’t like you.  (4 marks)

Outline two reasons why people might resist obedience.   (3 + 3)

Define what is meant by the terms ‘independent behaviour’, ‘locus of control’ and ‘learned helplessness.’                                                                                              (2 + 2 + 2)

Describe ONE difference between independence and anti-conformity as two types of non-conformity.                                                                                                (2 + 2)

Outline two factors that are likely to increase resistance to conformity (2 + 2)

Explain the relevance of attributional style to understanding resistance to social influence (6)


Essay style questions (all worth 12 marks)

Outline some criticisms of majority influence research and consider whether these are fair.

‘It is doubtful whether those who take part in obedience research are taken in by the deception used.  Even if they were, the research tells us very little about obedience in real life.’

To what extent can the validity of obedience research be defended against criticism such as this?

‘Some studies of obedience are criticised for lacking experimental validity, others for lacking ecological validity and others for lacking both.’

To what extent have studies of obedience been shown to lack validity?

Consider whether the findings from social influence research (e.g. Asch, Milgram, Zimbardo) can justify the methods used to obtain such findings).

“Most studies of majority influence have been carried out in laboratories and thus might not tell us much about the way people conform in the real world.”

Briefly outline findings from studies of majority influence (conformity) and consider the value of such studies.

With reference to psychological research, discuss the view that people will not always conform to others in group situations.                                           

Outline and evaluate psychological explanations of why people conform. 

Outline and evaluate research into resisting obedience

"People do not always conform or obey, sometimes they are able to resist such pressures."   Discuss research into the influence that individual differences have on independent behaviour.