Individuals in bigger groups are more inclined to conform to similar habits and beliefs than those in smaller groups. When the remainder of the group responds unanimously, they are more inclined to comply to collective choices. Groups also provide a mechanism for individuals to share information and get feedback on how their behaviors are affecting others.
Groups can influence our behavior by forcing us to consider other people's opinions. If everyone is doing it, then it must be okay! This is called the "social proof" effect. People will usually follow what other people are doing, especially if there are no apparent reasons not to. This is why so many people buy products that other people are using - it makes them feel like it's the right thing to do.
Groups can also influence our behavior by giving us an excuse to act selfishly. We all know people who are willing to cause trouble or break rules without being punished - this is because they're always looking around to see who else is breaking the rules and when no one is watching they'll do it too. These kind of individuals often find themselves enrolled in gangs or clubs where they can exercise their rebellious nature without repercussions.
Last but not least, groups can influence our behavior by making us feel part of something bigger than ourselves.
Effects on individuals Because we have a predisposition to prefer in-group members, we may treat others unjustly and see the same acts extremely differently among different people depending on their group. As a result, we may feel justified in engaging in unethical or dishonest behavior as long as it benefits our group. This can lead individuals to break laws or act unethically toward outsiders without feeling guilty or remorseful.
In addition, because we seek out information about who is likely to be an in-group member, this can also influence what we learn and how we process data. We may make judgments based on stereotypes rather than evidence, for example, favoring those who are like us over those who are not. This can lead individuals to make poor decisions based on false assumptions about the world around them.
Finally, having a preference for in-group members can affect how individuals interact with others. People will often favor those they perceive to be similar to themselves, so individuals will tend to trust, cooperate with, and help those they believe to be part of their group. This can lead individuals to ignore warning signs that someone is trying to take advantage of them or talk them into actions they might otherwise avoid.
In addition, people may feel compelled to defend their in-group members against attacks from outsiders.
Larger group size, unanimity, high group cohesiveness, and a perceived greater status of the group are all connected with increased compliance. Culture, gender, age, and the relevance of stimuli are all characteristics connected with compliance. Culture affects how individuals react to situations that require different behaviors; for example, individuals from different cultures may respond to the same event by protesting (against social norms) or complying.
Gender influences an individual's willingness to challenge the status quo: females are more likely than males to do so.
Age affects an individual's willingness to challenge the status quo: younger people are more likely to do so.
Relevance of stimuli is how an individual responds to a situation based on what they consider important. For example, if someone considers themselves part of a team, they will be more likely to comply with group decisions than if they did not consider themselves part of a team.
Stimuli can be internal or external to the person responding to the situation. Internal stimuli include feelings such as fear and guilt while external stimuli include facts and examples. For example, if someone feels guilty about violating a social norm, they will be more likely to comply with the group decision.
Groups have the potential to affect individuals, whether through normative or informational social influence. Groupthink is another manifestation of group conformity. Groupthink is the change of a group's members' ideas to fit with what they believe to be the group consensus (Janis, 1972). Groups can also affect individuals by means of normative social control and informational social control.
Normative social control involves groups setting standards for their members' behavior and then punishing or rewarding them based on how well they adhere to these standards. This form of social control can be seen in groups that use rules to decide on punishments for violations and rewards for adherence. For example, students may comply with the norm that others should not wear black clothing to school by being punished if they see someone wearing black clothes and rewarded if they see someone else wearing black clothes. In this case, the student is responding to the normative force of the group: the need to follow the majority's behavior to avoid punishment. Students may also respond to the normative force of the group by complying with the black-clothing rule because it is thought to be the "correct" thing to do.
Informational social control involves groups providing information about what is considered appropriate behavior so that individuals know what to do and what not to do. For example, students at a school where most students wear black clothes to class will know that it is inappropriate to wear white clothes to school.