The Role of Social Influence in Buyer Behavior (Abstract)


Robert E. Burnkrant and Alain Cousineau, (1974) ,"The Role of Social Influence in Buyer Behavior (Abstract)", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 01, eds. Scott Ward and Peter Wright, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 431.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1974    Page 431


Robert E. Burnkrant, University of California, Berkeley

Alain Cousineau,, Sherbrooke University

The social influence literature was reviewed to shed further light on the processes underlying the results obtained in marketing research. It was suggested that the methodology employed in this research was such that it would not be likely to lead to the presence of strong normative pressures to comply. Despite this absence of clear normative pressure researchers have consistently found evidence that social influence is operating in their experiments. This influence has generally been attributed to a tendency of individuals to comply with group norms.

It was suggested that the influence operating in these situations is actually informational rather than normative. People who are given the task of evaluating an ambiguous object are believed to accept the behaviors and opinions of others as evidence about the true state of the object. They would be expected to use the evidence of other people's reactions to an object as a basis for inferring characteristics such as quality or value to the object. It was suggested that the type of influence operating in most marketing research studies of social influence and the type operating in the market place is largely this sort of influence.

It was further suggested that when people are given a problem solving task to perform the result of a normative influence attempt would be to induce a state of psychological reactance if the influence attempt were perceived as constraining their freedom to behave in the task. This state of psychological reactance would mediate the obtained influence tending to minimize or reverse the compliance which would normally be predicted.

An experiment was performed and reported in which subjects were asked to evaluate coffee after exposure to evaluations which were high in uniformity, low in uniformity or of unknown uniformity. The evaluations were attributed either to a high or a low credibility source. After exposure to this information subjects were asked to taste and evaluate the coffee themselves under either the condition in which they believed their response would be anonymous of the condition in which they believed it would be identifiable by others. Evidence was found to support the presence of informational social influence. The normative influence attempt showed evidence of having produced psychological reactance.



Robert E. Burnkrant, University of California, Berkeley
Alain Cousineau,, Sherbrooke University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 01 | 1974

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