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Case Study Research Paper on Peer Influences

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Peer influences the behavior of individuals, often promoting conformity. The tendency to match one’s behavior to that of peers is called conformity. Some amount of peer conformity provides a secure feeling of belonging; peer pressure, however, can be considerable and sometimes unpleasant. Even intelligent and good teens can foster conformity, as shown by the story of Okiki. Her story is one of the reasons why the researcher believed that further study is needed in this field.

She’s a thirteen-year-old honors student at a Lorain, Ohio, middle school. She sat in class, her arms and legs shaking nervously. In her book bag she had a twelve-inch kitchen knife.  Her plan was to wait for the bell to ring and then rush to the front of the classroom and, with the help of another student, stab her teacher to death.  Why? To settle a grudge against the teacher and to show her classmates (at least a dozen of whom placed bets as to whether or not she would “chicken out”) that she was worthy of their respect.  Hearing about the plot, an assistant principal broke up the plan only minutes before it was to be carried out (Gregory, 1993).

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The fact that young teens are anxious about fitting in surprise no one, although many people might be amazed at the lengths some will go to gain acceptance.   Psychologists have confirmed the power of peer influence to shape human behavior and found that it remains strong in adulthood as well as in adolescence.  Hence further study regarding this problem is needed.


Hence the hypothesis being tested in this study is that peer influences affect perceptual judgments.  Specifically, the study seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. Could anything persuade a person to choose others` choice other than what the person have selected is the correct choice?
  2. Do the opinions of peers have an extremely powerful influence on an individual?


The research method to be used in this study would be the controlled experiment research design.  The controlled experiment allows the researcher to manipulate the independent variables.  Hence, there will be an experimental group, which will experience a change in the independent variable (the “treatment”), and a control group, which will not experience the treatment but whose behavior will be compared with that of the experimental group. It is important to take note that the control group should be similar to the experimental group in every other way.

The participants will be college students recruited by the researcher from different schools.  For validity and reliability purposes of the research method to be used, the researcher would like to use the classic experiment by Solomon Asch (1952).

Hence, I will form groups of six to eight people, allegedly to study visual perception.  In this technique, confederates will be used, all of whom will state an obviously incorrect judgment prior to the turn of the individual whose behavior will be investigated.

Hence, the researcher will arrange with all but one member of the group to create a situation in which the remaining subject would be pressured to accept conclusions that were quite unreasonable.  The researcher will ask each group members, one at a time, to match a “standard” line on “Card 1,” to one of three lines on “Card.” Anyone with normal vision could see that the line marked “A” on “Card 2” was the correct choice.  Initially, everyone is expected to give correct answers.  Then, the researcher’s secret accomplices will began responding incorrectly, making the naïve subject hopefully bewildered and uncomfortable.

So, the control participants/group would consist of subjects who will look at the lines in a room where they will be seated together but will be allowed to make their judgments independently.  In this group the subjects are expected to invariably match the correct lines. But in the experimental group a different result is expected as a result of the introduction of an independent variable: peer influence.


So what will happen?  The researcher would expect that more than one-third of the subjects that will be place in this awkward situation chose to conform to the others by answering incorrectly or they went along with the incorrect group judgment.   This study would suggest that many of us are apparently willing to compromise our own judgment to avoid the discomfort of being different from others, even from people we do not know. Read also research proposal on Forensic Accounting

The independent variable in this study will be peer influence.  The researcher will also vary the degree of peer influence to be experienced by the subject.  The independent variable (peer influence) thus produced more “errors,” or choices (dependent variable) of the wrong line (same as Asch, 1966).


In this experiment, the subject will usually dupe and may feel embarrass.  Since this is a psychological research, it deals with the personal lives and inner thoughts of real human beings. Although this research may seem relatively innocent, there would be many times when the questions to be ask or the behaviors to be witness may be embarrassing or even more damaging.   More or less, the study would have good internal validity as it is expected to clearly measure what it intends to measure.  Moreover, external events and contamination may cause causal conclusions of the study to be invalid. For example, when the experimental group will be interviewed, something might happen which is unrelated to the result or something in their surrounding might influence the subjects in answering the questions and thus might affect the result of the survey. On the other hand, external validity will not be measured in the study.


In conclusion, the expected result in this research is not related to the effects of an independent variable. This is the so called foot-in-the-door technique (Dillard, 2001).  This technique can produce extraordinary degrees of compliance.  Here, the experimental group will conform to the confederates not by peer influence but by voluntarily conforming to the incorrect response.  This is best explained by self-perception theory, which assumes that we infer our attitudes from observing our own behavior, and provides an answer.  Here, if someone freely complies with a small, worthwhile request, the person will somehow feel as someone who has positive attitude toward worthwhile requests.  As one wish to be consistent with his self-perception, he may be more likely to comply with other requests. But supporters of this alternative explanation have been mixed (Dillard, 2001).

As a suggestion, one variations of this experiment would be that the social impact of the peer influence varies as a function of its size, the degree of unanimity in the group, and the degree to which one’s nonconforming behavior can be hidden from scrutiny.  People would evaluate their opinions and behavior against the standards of a reference group.  If they find major differences, they feel pressure to conform – or to change reference groups.


  1. Asch, S. E. Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgments. In D. Cartwright and A. Zander (Eds.), Group dynamics: Research and theory.1966.
  2. Dillard, J.P. The current status of research on sequential-request compliance techniques. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.2001.
  3. Gregory, R.L. The Oxford companion to the mind.  New York: Oxford University Press. 1993.

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