Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
- LAST REVIEWED: 08 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0075
- LAST REVIEWED: 08 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0075
Social influence refers to the ways people influence the beliefs, feelings, and behaviors of others. Each day we are bombarded by countless attempts by others to influence us, and as such, the study of social influence has long been a central topic of inquiry for social psychologists and researchers in many other social sciences (e.g., marketing, organizational behavior, political science). Theorists have typically distinguished between four types of social influence. Compliance is when an individual changes his or her behavior in response to an explicit or implicit request made by another person. Compliance is often referred to as an active form of social influence in that it is usually intentionally initiated by a person. It is also conceptualized as an external form of social influence in that its focus is a change in overt behavior. Although compliance may sometimes occur as a result of changes in people’s internal beliefs and/or feelings, such internal changes are not the primary goal of compliance, nor are they necessarily required for the request to be successful. In contrast, conformity refers to when people adjust their behaviors, attitudes, feelings, and/or beliefs to fit to a group norm. Conformity is generally regarded as a passive form of influence in that members of the group do not actively attempt to influence others. People merely observe the actions of group members and adjust their behaviors and/or views accordingly. The focus of conformity can be either external (overt behaviors) or internal (beliefs and feelings) in nature. Obedience is a change in behavior as a result of a direct command from an authority figure. Obedience is an active form of influence in that it is usually directly initiated by an authority figure and is typically external in that overt behaviors are generally the focus of commands. The final form of social influence is persuasion, which refers to an active attempt to change another person’s attitudes, beliefs, or feelings, usually via some form of communication. Persuasion is an active form of influence and is internal in its focus in that changes in people’s beliefs and/or feelings are the goal of such influence. Typically, persuasion is treated as a distinct literature from that of the other three forms of social influence and is usually included as a major area of inquiry within the broader attitudes literature. As such, this bibliography will focus primarily on literature related to compliance, conformity, and obedience.
General Overviews and Textbooks
There are a number of sources, appropriate for different audiences, that provide overviews of the literature. Cialdini 2001 would be useful for not only students but also those with nonacademic backgrounds who have an interest in social influence. In contrast, Cialdini and Griskevicius 2010 and Cialdini and Trost 1998 are geared more toward graduate students, scholars, and researchers. Forgas and Williams 2001 is a collection of chapters written by various experts in the field of social influence. Hogg 2010 provides a scholarly overview of social influence literature.
Cialdini, R. B. 2001. Influence: Science and practice. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
This book is among the most popular in any area of social psychology. It remains a popular text for classes on social influence but is sufficiently engaging with its effective use of real-world examples that it is appealing to readers outside the academic context.
Cialdini, R. B., and V. Griskevicius. 2010. Social influence. In Advanced social psychology: The state of the science. Edited by R. Baumeister and E. Finkel, 385–418. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
An academic review of social influence research. In contrast to Cialdini 2001, this book is best suited for a scholarly audience and would be a useful resource for senior undergraduate and graduate students.
Cialdini, R. B., and M. R. Trost. 1998. Social influence: Social norms, conformity, and compliance. In The handbook of social psychology. 4th ed. Vol. 2. Edited by D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, and G. Lindzey, 151–192. New York: McGraw-Hill.
This chapter is a comprehensive, scholarly review of psychological research on social influence. It provides a detailed summary of research on norms, conformity, and compliance.
Forgas, J. P., and K. D. Williams, eds. 2001. Social influence: Direct and indirect processes. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
The chapters in this book were a product of the Sydney Symposium of Social Psychology held at the University of New South Wales, and they provide thoughtful insights into both theoretical and practical social influence issues. This book is best suited for senior students, scholars, and researchers.
Hogg, M. A. 2010. “Influence and leadership.” In The handbook of social psychology. 5th ed. Vol. 2. Edited by S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, and G. Lindzey, 1166–1206. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
This chapter provides a scholarly overview of social influence literature. This chapter is best suited for graduate students, scholars, and researchers. It provides distinctions between compliance, conformity, and obedience literature.
Vallacher, R. R., A. Nowak, and M. E. Miller. 2003. Social influence and group dynamics. In Handbook of psychology. Vol. 5, Personality and social psychology. Edited by T. Millon and M. J. Lerner, 383–417. New York: Wiley.
A chapter that provides an exploration of social influence processes within group contexts. This chapter is best suited for graduate students, scholars, and researchers.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- Abnormal Psychology
- Action Research
- Addictive Behavior
- Affective Forecasting
- Allport, Gordon
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Animal Behavior
- Animal Learning
- Anxiety Disorders
- Art and Aesthetics, Psychology of
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Adults
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Childre...
- Attraction in Close Relationships
- Attribution Theory
- Authoritarian Personality
- Behavior Therapy, Rational Emotive
- Behavioral Economics
- Behavioral Genetics
- Bereavement and Grief
- Biological Psychology
- Birth Order
- Body Image in Men and Women
- Bystander Effect
- Clinical Neuropsychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive Dissonance Theory
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Communication, Nonverbal Cues and
- Comparative Psychology
- Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
- Coping Processes
- Counseling Psychology
- Critical Thinking
- Cross-Cultural Psychology
- Cultural Psychology
- Death and Dying
- Deceiving and Detecting Deceit
- Defensive Processes
- Depressive Disorders
- Development, Prenatal
- Developmental Psychology (Cognitive)
- Developmental Psychology (Social)
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM...
- Dissociative Disorders
- Drugs and Behavior
- Eating Disorders
- Ecological Psychology
- Educational Settings, Assessment of Thinking in
- Embodiment and Embodied Cognition
- Emerging Adulthood
- Emotional Intelligence
- Environmental Neuroscience and Environmental Psychology
- Ethics in Psychological Practice
- Evolutionary Psychology
- Eyewitness Testimony
- Factor Analysis
- Festinger, Leon
- Five-Factor Model of Personality
- Flynn Effect, The
- Friendships, Children's
- Fundamental Attribution Error/Correspondence Bias
- Gambler's Fallacy
- Game Theory and Psychology
- Health Psychology
- Heuristics and Biases
- History of Psychology
- Human Factors
- Implicit Association Test (IAT)
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Intercultural Psychology
- Intergroup Conflict
- International Classification of Diseases and Related Healt...
- International Psychology
- Interviewing in Forensic Settings
- Intimate Partner Violence, Psychological Perspectives on
- Item Response Theory
- Law, Psychology and
- Learned Helplessness
- Learning versus Performance
- LGBTQ+ Romantic Relationships
- Lie Detection in a Forensic Context
- Life-Span Development
- Locus of Control
- Mechanisms and Processes of Peer Contagion
- Memories, Autobiographical
- Memories, Flashbulb
- Memories, Repressed and Recovered
- Memory, Human
- Memory, Implicit versus Explicit
- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)
- Moral Development
- Moral Psychology
- Moral Reasoning
- Neuroscience of Associative Learning
- Obsessive-Complusive Disorder (OCD)
- Operant Conditioning
- Optimism and Pessimism
- Organizational Justice
- Parenting Stress
- Path Models
- Peace Psychology
- Perception, Person
- Personality Disorders
- Personality Psychology
- Positive Psychology
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Prejudice and Stereotyping
- Prisoner's Dilemma
- Prosocial Behavior
- Prosocial Spending and Well-Being
- Psychology, Political
- Psychophysics, Visual
- Psychotic Disorders
- Reasoning, Counterfactual
- Rehabilitation Psychology
- Religion, Psychology and
- Research Methods
- Risk Taking
- Schizophrenic Disorders
- School Psychology
- Self, Gender and
- Self, Psychology of the
- Self-Regulation in Educational Settings
- Sensation Seeking
- Sex and Gender
- Sexual Minority Parenting
- Sexual Orientation
- Single People
- Skinner, B. F.
- Sleep and Dreaming
- Small Groups
- Social Class and Social Status
- Social Cognition
- Social Neuroscience
- Social Touch and Massage Therapy Research
- Somatoform Disorders
- Sports Psychology
- Stereotype Threat
- Subjective Wellbeing Homeostasis
- Teaching of Psychology
- Terror Management Theory
- Testing and Assessment
- Theory of Mind
- Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral
- Thinking Skills in Educational Settings
- Time Perception
- Trait Perspective
- Twin Studies
- Type A Behavior Pattern (Coronary Prone Personality)
- Women and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM...
- Women, Psychology of