Compliance in Social Psychology

Compliance refers to the act of conforming to a request or command from another person. In the field of social psychology, compliance is a fascinating topic that explores why people comply with requests, and what factors influence their decision to do so.

What Influences Compliance?

There are several factors that can influence an individual’s compliance. One of the most significant factors is the authority of the person making the request. People are more likely to comply with requests from individuals they perceive as having legitimate authority, such as teachers, supervisors, or experts in a particular field.

Another influential factor is social norms. People tend to comply with requests that align with societal expectations and norms. For example, if everyone around you is participating in a certain behavior or following a specific rule, you may feel compelled to comply as well.

The Power of Reciprocity

Reciprocity is another powerful factor that influences compliance. The concept of reciprocity suggests that when someone does something for us or gives us something, we feel obligated to return the favor. This principle can be observed in various situations, such as when someone offers you a free sample at a grocery store and then asks you to buy their product.

The Foot-in-the-Door Technique

The foot-in-the-door technique is a compliance strategy based on the idea that people are more likely to agree to a large request if they have already agreed to a smaller one. This technique works by gradually increasing the size and complexity of requests over time. For example, if someone asks you for a small favor initially and then follows up with a larger favor later on, you may be more inclined to comply with the larger request due to your prior commitment.

Social Proof and Compliance

Social proof refers to the tendency people have to look at what others are doing in a given situation to determine their own behavior. When we are uncertain about how to act or what decision to make, we often look to others for guidance. This phenomenon can be seen in situations like restaurant choices or online shopping, where positive reviews and ratings from others influence our decision-making.

Conformity and Obedience

Compliance is closely related to two other concepts in social psychology: conformity and obedience. Conformity refers to changing one’s behavior or beliefs to match those of a larger group, while obedience involves complying with the commands of an authority figure. Both conformity and obedience play significant roles in understanding compliance.


Compliance is a complex phenomenon that is influenced by various factors, including authority, social norms, reciprocity, the foot-in-the-door technique, social proof, conformity, and obedience. Understanding these influences can provide valuable insights into human behavior and help us navigate the intricacies of social interactions.

In conclusion, compliance plays a crucial role in our everyday lives. By examining the reasons behind why people comply with requests, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of human behavior and develop strategies for effective communication and persuasion. So next time you find yourself complying with a request, take a moment to reflect on the factors at play and consider how they might be influencing your decision-making process.

Remember – compliance is not always bad! It can help maintain order in society and foster cooperation among individuals. However, it is essential to be aware of the factors that influence our compliance so that we can make informed decisions based on our own values and beliefs.

– Cialdini, R. B., & Goldstein, N. J. (2004). Social influence: Compliance and conformity. – Kelman, H. C., & Hamilton, V.L (1989).

Crimes of obedience: Toward a social psychology of authority and responsibility. – Robert B. Cialdini (2001). Influence: Science and practice.