Peer pressure

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Peer pressure (also group or pressure to conform , engl., Inter alia Peer pressure ) is the trigger for the behavior or attitude of people inside a group . Often such peer pressure only influences behavior within a limited group and brings about an adaptation of behavior to group norms, especially if it is considered a condition of membership. The effectiveness of pressure to conform is shown not least in the adaptation of behavior to the prevailing social morality and public opinion .

Influencing factors

Normative influence

People behave in accordance with groups because they want to make a desired impression on others. Many people feel uncomfortable or insecure when they hold opinions other than those of the majority of the group. They think that it arouses antipathy and aversion in other group members . The normative influence thus means that people behave in a compliant manner in order to be judged as sympathetic by other people. Society can also be seen as a group that tries to integrate deviants in order to form useful members (see Normative social influence ).

Informational influence

When people do not have complete information in certain situations, other individuals can serve as a source of information. Conformity comes about when you want to eliminate a personal insecurity by relying on the opinion of the majority and possibly also accepting it. The more difficult (or unclear) a situation is, the stronger the conformity shown (see informative social influence ).


If the group is in a difficult and hopeless situation, no one helps the group from outside and no objective information is available, the pressure to conform is increased.


If you have a high need for confirmation and certainty, as well as low self-esteem , the pressure to conform also increases. You feel stronger and better in a group towards outsiders.


A strong sense of solidarity, belonging to a fringe group , a hierarchy and a high level of agreement within a group increase the pressure to conform. The more of these factors, the more likely it is to adapt to the group.

Research approaches

Well-known people who have researched compliance printing include Muzafer Sherif (1935), William Foote Whyte (1943), and Solomon Asch (1951).

In 1935, Muzafer Sherif used a well-known phenomenon of deceptive motion to study group influence: the autokinetic effect . If a person is in a completely darkened room and a stationary (i.e. fixed) light is projected onto a wall in front of them, this point of light seems to move back and forth for the person.

Sherif performed his original experiment on four consecutive days. On the first day, the test subjects were exposed to the autokinetic effect alone. In a hundred rounds they were asked how strongly the light was moving. Each test subject quickly developed an individual norm, e.g. B. between 8 and 10 inches by which the estimates of the passages varied. This individual norm differed greatly between the test subjects.

After these single runs on the first day, the experiment was repeated on days two to four in groups of, for example, three test persons. The groups now sat together in the darkened room and were asked to assess the movement of the light.

As a result, it turned out that a group norm quickly began to form in the group rounds. Although the individual norm of the three test subjects differed greatly at the beginning, all three judgments in the group tests settled on a common mean value.

In a modification of the study, Sherif ran group sessions on the first day and individual sessions on the following three days. Here, too, a group norm developed on the first day - all group members hardly differed in their judgments. This group norm of the first day continued in the following solo rounds. Once the test subjects had adjusted to the group, they retained this adjustment.

Asch's conformity experiment

Solomon Asch performed his original conformity experiment in 1951 . A number of people were sitting at a conference table. The subject entering this room was told that they were other volunteer participants in the experiment. In truth, however, all those present except the subject were confidants of the experimenter.

A line was presented on a screen in front of this group. In addition to this reference line, three more lines were displayed and it was the task of the people to assess which of these three comparison lines was the same length as the reference line. It is important that one of the lines was clearly the same length as the reference line for each pass (see picture). In the control group, the experimenter's confidants should express their true opinion in the group as to which line is the same length. As expected, the test person sitting at the table with the secret confidante hardly makes any mistakes in this condition (less than 1%).

18 estimates were made in each of the experimental groups . During six of these rounds, the secret confidants were instructed to deliver a correct judgment (in order to appear credible). During the remaining twelve rounds (mixed randomly among the six correct ones) the confidants should unanimously give a wrong judgment. On average, 37% of the test subjects' judgments were now incorrect, so in about a third of the cases the participants conformed to the majority (despite an obvious wrong decision). From the mean value of 37% wrong decisions, however, the conclusion cannot be drawn that the majority of the test subjects remained largely unaffected: 75% of the participants made at least one mistake in the 12 manipulated rounds - despite the obvious wrong decision by the majority.

This original experiment was later replicated in a large number of variants. It was found that the larger the group, the more conformity it creates. As the group size increases, the conformity rate asymptotically approaches a straight line.

If the unanimity of the secret confidante is broken in the event of a wrong judgment, because one of them judges even more wrongly, the test subjects make significantly fewer mistakes. In this case, they seem to have the confidence to express their correct minority opinion, since others also hold a minority opinion. Social support leads to a similar reduction in the conformity rate: If one of the confidants of the test subject agrees, they almost always insist on their correct assessment.

In October 2011, scientists from the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen , the Netherlands, published a study they had done on 96 four-year-olds. Result: these children sometimes publicly support a majority opinion even if they actually think it is wrong. The researchers suspect basic social considerations, such as the desire to be accepted by the group.

See also


  • E. Aronson , TD Wilson, RM Akert: Social Psychology. 6th edition. Pearson Studies, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8273-7359-5 .
  • Eddy von Avermaet: Social Influence in Small Groups. In: Wolfgang Stroebe, Miles Hewstone, Geoffrey M. Stephenson (eds.): Social psychology. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-540-61268-8 , pp. 503-543.
  • S. Brehm, S. Kassin, S. Fein: Social Psychology. 6th edition. Houghton Mifflin, Boston 2004, ISBN 0-618-40337-X .
  • M. Sader : Psychology of the group . Juventa Verlag, Weinheim / Munich 1994, ISBN 3-7799-0315-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b When the group presses. Retrieved November 17, 2015 .
  2. Belong to. (PDF) Retrieved November 17, 2015 .
  3. I'd rather harm myself than be different. Retrieved November 17, 2015 .
  4. Thomas Wimmer: Smoking, a completely normal consumer behavior? Springer VS, 2013, ISBN 978-3-658-00337-1 , p. 56 ( ).
  5. October 25, 2011: Peer pressure even in preschool age October 2011: Small opportunists