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Resistance to Social Influence

Social Support

Social Support.

Social support is when the presence of other people make the individual less likely to confirm or obey. It is the ability to withstand social pressure.


Resisting conformity

In the Asch (1951) experiment when there was a confederate who gave the correct answer the real naïve participant was less likely to confirm. It appears as if having social support makes the naïve participant confident to stick with their own opinion. This gives rise to yet more descent because it breaks the unanimity of the majority.

Resisting obedience

In one of Milgram's variations, it was found that the rate of obedience dropped from 65% to 10% when the naïve participant was joined by a disobedient confederate. In this situation, the disobedient confederate acted as a role model of descent for the real naïve participant. This helps the naive participant to challenge the legitimacy of the authority figure.


1. One strength of the concept of social support is that there is research evidence from the Asch as well as the Milgram variations. There is also evidence for resistance to conformity from a study, which was conducted by Allen and Levine (1971). They did a similar study to that of Asch, whereby a naïve participant, had to give an answer to the line experiment whilst in the presence of a number of confederates. In one condition, there was a dissenter, who wore thick glasses. This person is not really a credible dissenter (because of the assumption their eyesight is not great!) however, the fact that they went against the majority and gave the correct answer, gave the naïve participant the confidence to also resist the group.

2. Other research support, this time for resistance to obedience, comes from a study by Gamson et al (1982). In this study, participants were asked to put together a campaign to discredit a small independent petrol station on the request of a large oil company. In this situation when they were dissenters in the group, the naïve participant was also more likely to resist the pressure to obey and go against the oil companies orders.

Locus of Control

Locus of Control

Rotter (1966) proposed a concept referred to as locus of control. Locus of control refers to the sense of control that we have over our lives. People with an internal control are likely to believe that they are responsible for the events that happens to them within their lives, whereas people with an external locus of control believe that it is outside forces which affect their lives. For example, externals believe more in luck and fate, and they are also more likely to blame other external agents for things that happen in their lives.

Rotter suggested that this is a continuum and it is not simply that a person is either an external or internal. It is, however, that people may have an internal locus of control in some situations and an external locus of control in other areas of their lives.

It is thought that people who have an internal love to control are more likely to resist the pressure to confirm or to obey.



1. One strength of the locus of control explanation is that there is research evidence from a study by Holland (1967). Holland repeated Milgram's study and also measured the participants on the locus of control scale. He found that 37% of people with an internal locus of control did not continue to the highest shock level and showed greater resistance. However, with people with an external locus of control, 23% of them did not continue to the highest level. Holland therefore concluded that people with an external locus of control were more likely to follow the orders of an authority figure.

2. One limitation of locus of control when trying to explain resistance to conformity and obedience is that there is also evidence from Twenge (2004) that people are less conforming and obedient in America today even though they are more likely to have an external locus of control.  This is contrary to what the locus control explanation would suggest.


Resistance to Social Influence Exam Questions

Resistance to Social Influence Mark Scheme

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