Social Impact Theory of Obedience

Who came up with the theory?
Bibb Latane (1981) – proposed that we are greatly influenced by others
What is social impact?
We are greatly influenced by the actions of others so they impact on us.
person being impacted on
Social Forces
The strength of the source can be determined by status, authority or age.
The immediacy is determined by proximity or distance between the source and the target.
Number refers to how many sources and targets are in the social situation.
= authority figure who are legitimate, immediate to the individual and who are greater in number will ensure obedience.
Psychological law
first source of influence has the most dramatic impact on people, but that the second, third, fourth, etc sources generate less and less Social Force.
Berkowitz, Bickman and Milgram (1969)
Conducted a study at the city university of New York. They got between 1 and 15 confederates to congregate on the street and crane their necks up at the sixth floor of the building.
= although increasing the number of confederates did increase the number of passers by imitating their actions, the number of passers by grew smaller relative to the size of the confederate group
Multiplication versus division of impact
The number of targets to be influenced affects the impact of the source

Diffusion of responsibility – the more of you there are, the less personal responsibility each of you will feel.
This applies to Milgram too because his other variations showed how obedience went down when the participant had a rebellious partner.

1.) useful as a general formulation and can predict behaviour under certain conditions
2.) principles can be observed in everyday behaviour
3.) research into obedience (Milgram) and bystander behaviour (Latane) have all demonstrated this theory in social situations.
1.) Everyone is different and this theory seems to oversimplify the nature of human interaction and ignore individual differences.
2.) It is a static theory because it does not take into account how the target and source interact
3.) more descriptive theory as it does not explain why people are influenced by others, just under what conditions.