Social influence refers to the process through which individuals change their attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors as a result of the influence of others. There are two types of social influence: informational social influence and normative social influence. In this article, we will focus on informational social influence theory.

What is Informational Social Influence Theory

Informational social influence theory suggests that people conform to the beliefs or behaviors of others because they believe that others have more knowledge or expertise in a particular situation. This type of social influence occurs when people are uncertain about what to do or how to behave in a specific situation and look to others for guidance.

For instance, imagine you are in a classroom, and the teacher asks a question that you do not know the answer to. You might look around at your classmates and see that most of them raise their hands with an answer. In this scenario, you might assume that they know something you don’t and follow their lead by raising your hand too.

Factors That Affect Informational Social Influence

The informational social influence theory is affected by several factors. Some of these factors include:

1. Ambiguity:

When there is ambiguity about a situation, people tend to look for cues from others on how to behave. For instance, if someone is visiting a new city for the first time and they are unsure about which way to go, they might follow other pedestrians who appear confident in their direction.

2. Expertise:

People are more likely to conform when they believe that those around them have more knowledge or expertise in a particular area. For instance, if someone is attending a lecture on quantum physics but has no background in it themselves, they might be more likely to conform to the opinions of those around them who seem knowledgeable.

3. Group Size:

The larger the group, the more likely people are to conform. This is because people assume that if many others believe something or behave in a certain way, then it must be correct.

The Role of Culture in Informational Social Influence

Culture plays a crucial role in shaping informational social influence. For instance, some cultures value independence and self-reliance, making them less susceptible to informational social influence. In contrast, other cultures emphasize interdependence and collectivism and tend to be more influenced by others’ opinions.

The Limitations of Informational Social Influence Theory

While informational social influence theory has provided valuable insights into how people are influenced by others’ opinions or behaviors, it has some limitations. One limitation is that the theory does not account for situations where people conform despite knowing that they are making an incorrect decision.

Another limitation is that the theory does not consider individual differences such as personality traits or cognitive abilities that may affect how much someone is influenced by others.


Informational social influence theory describes how individuals conform to the beliefs or behaviors of others because they believe that others have more knowledge or expertise in a particular situation. Understanding the factors that affect informational social influence can help us better understand human behavior and decision-making processes.