What Is Normative Social Influence?

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  • Written By: Valerie Goldberg
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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Normative social influence (NSI) is a type of conformity in which a person or group acts a certain way in public in hopes of fitting in with the norm, even if that behavior doesn’t carry over to private life. People, as a whole, have a natural instinct to want to fit in and be accepted by others. A person may make changes to his or her life in an attempt to be accepted by a specific group of peers. Sometimes the person does not believe in or enjoy the changes he or she is making, but makes them anyway because of normative social influence.

School-age children are often greatly affected by normative social influence. If the popular kids at a school all dress in a certain brand of clothing or style their hair a certain way, other kids may copy these styles to avoid being made fun of or feeling different. Some of the children may prefer to wear completely different clothing but avoid doing so because they do not want to feel like outcasts. The popular students who are wearing the trend-setting styles also are affected by NSI, because they typically choose their clothing based on the normative social influence of over pop culture.


Adults also can be influenced by social norms, especially in an office setting. Workers may act a certain way to win the approval of co-workers or a boss. Dressing in professional-looking clothing and always being early — or, at least, on time &m dash; for meetings may make some workers feel they will better fit in with their co-workers who are assigned special projects or chosen for promotions.

Social norms affect every person in one way or another. Even people who like to stand out realize they are going against the grain and know what the social norm is. There are many countries where being thin automatically makes a woman more attractive than a heavier woman in the eyes of the general public and the media. Other countries’ social norms are just the opposite, and the heavier-set woman would be considered more appealing. This is one example of how normative social influence can impact a society.

Small, regular tasks can even be the result of normative social influence. Usually, if a person sees a stranger slip, the person will automatically ask the stranger if he or she is OK. The person typically does not have time to decide if he or she even cares about the stranger’s well being. Society instills into people’s minds that the proper behavior when someone may be hurt is to offer assistance. A person who claps his or her hands at the end of a concert that he or she did not particularly enjoy also may do so to better fit in with surrounding audience members and not appear rude.


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