The concept of normative influence and how social influences can work to promote beneficial behaviors.


For a long time, man has always demonstrated the conformist tendencies especially when they seek positive social acceptance. Therefore, normative influence theory supports the argument that human beings are social animals and that is why they live as a family, and have peer groups. This paper seeks to analyze the concept of social influence and deliberate on how social influences can work to promote beneficial behaviors within a society.

Normative influence


Normative influence refers to the power of a social reference groups to trigger change in behaviors in an individual in order to gain acceptance or avoid rejection by the group. Normative influence is mainly a social influence because one is forced to conform to the house rules, behavior and codes in order to be accepted. Human beings are social animals that is why they work hard to please others in order to be accepted by these “others”

Discuss the concept of normative influence

Normative social influence stems from the fact that each civilized community is governed by rules and regulations and even rudimentary groups such as peer groups, workmates, and other social groups have their own written and unwritten codes that any person willing to join the reference groups must abide by (Liberman, Samuels, &, Ross, 2004, pp. 1175-85). However, it is important to note that one can publicly accept the group’s norms, but privately reject the norm. In most cases, people conform to these groups’ rules and norms to be considered a member. It is also interesting to note that even in large communities, people have to show their solidarity with the reference group to benefit from these groups. Just like the evolutionary theory of survival for the fittest, human beings look for ways by which they can survive the hard times and this is why people prefer being members of reference groups. These social groups are defined by their values, and beliefs by whch they live and this to an extent influences one’s perception about the potential benefist of joining these groups (Chen, et al, 2010, pp. 1358–98).

My experience of the impact of normative social influence is the church membership. Personally, I used to go to catholic church, however, when i moved to my current town, i realized there is no catholic church so i joined aa protestantn church. While there, I realized that there are unwritten rules and regulations that the church members observe. There are also behaviors that the church consider unclean. Therefore, in order to be allowed to congregate with the church members, I was requested to stop drinking, and change my dress code because they considered my dress code too "revealing." Becasue I really wanted to be a member of a religious comunity, I had to change my dress codes.

Nevertheless, the normative social influence theory is grounded on three major arguments. For example, Nolan, et al, (2008, pp. 913-923), argues that normative social influence is affected by three major factors personal importance, immediacy, and size. Therefore, an individual can only think of joining a social group if an individual considers their activities important. Another thing that contributes to the effectiveness of the normative social influence theory is the group’s proximity to an individual. For example, due to the proximity, an individual must conform to the group codes of conduct, rules and policies to benefit from the group’s protection, services, and other membership benefits.

How social influences can work to promote beneficial behaviors.

Introducing conditionality and norms for joining the group

While social influence is mainly associated with the negative influence, Liberman, Samuels, &, Ross, (2004, pp. 1175-85) argues that social influence can contribute to the development of beneficial behaviors. According to Chen, et al, (2010, pp. 1358–98), reference groups can be used by the society to promote beneficial behaviors by using the reference groups as ambassadors of beneficial behaviors. Winterboer, et al, (2009) argues that in the modem society, the church uses the youths to reach out to the other youths with the aim of helping them form beneficial behaviors (good moral and self-restraint) as these are the only conditions that they must meet in order to benefit from community services and privileges. In such context, an individual is forced to conform to these conditions in order not to threaten the integrity of the group.

Reinforcements of good behaviors

Additionally, the classical conditioning theory is also based on the normative influence because there are health related interventions that can only be reinforced through normative social influence. For example, the individuals who smoke may be taught the effects of smoking but despite knowing the downsides of smoking, they will still smoke. Therefore, to avoid relapse, normative social influence is introduced to help the smokers maintain their behavior changes. Many behaviors can only be unlearned or destroyed through (NSI) normative social influence. A peer group can easily define rules and groups policies that aspiring group members must follow.

Normative social influence can have both positive and negative impact on individual behaviors. Therefore, in as much as individuals can modify his behaviors, beliefs and values, it is an indusial decision to conform to all the group’s rules or not. The person seeking to join the group must decide whether to conform to the group’s rules, code of conduct or behaviors in order to be accepted into the group or refuse to conform to the group’s code of conduct and be rejected by the group. Just like in cognitive dissonance theory, one has to weigh his options in order to avoid or reduce dissonance or improve consonance. Finally, normative influence theory offers a better approach to understanding the antecedent and consequences of deviance behaviors within a community.


The social psychology’s paradigmatic phenomena may not be a common debate amongst many, but it has proven to be one of the most effective ways by which behavior change can be promoted. In conclusion, the concept of normative influence can only be effective if the size of the reference groups is adequate, the supporters agree unanimously, and the task or rules are difficult. All these increase conformity.


Nolan, J., Schultz, P., Cialdini, R., Goldstein, N., & Griskevicius, V. (2008). Normative social influence is underdetected. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(7), 913-923.

Liberman, V., Samuels, S.M., and Ross, L., (2004). The name of the game: Predictive power of reputations versus situational labels in determining prisoner’s dilemma game moves.Personality and Social PsychologyBulletin 30, 9 (2004), 1175-85.

Winterboer, A., Cramer, H.S., Pavlin, G., Groen, F.C., & Evers, V, (2009). Do you smell rotten eggs? Proc. of the 11th Int. Conf. on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, MobileHCI


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