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Susceptible to Social Influence: Risky “Driving” in Response to Peer Pressure


  • The authors thank the following people for assisting in this research as experimenters and confederates: Erin Bedford, Chelsey Bonnett, Becky Cantlon, Sean Casey, Michelle Dillon, Natalie Dunkin, Chavon Fairbanks, Peter Fitzer, Beth Gibbons, Sarah Goodner, Jeff Gradowski, Steph Hanson, Brianne Hart, Claire Hauser, Jaclyn Helling, Kami Hobbs, Rachel Jeffers, Jacob Juhl, Joe Moses, Ross O'Hara, Shirley Newcomb, Davis Pitman, Loral Rainey, Alison Schuler, Katie Whipple, and Miko Wilford. We also thank the graduate students in social psychology at Iowa State University for their feedback in developing this study.

Jennifer L. Shepherd, OMNI Institute, 899 Logan Street, Suite 600, Denver, CO 80203. E-mail:


In 2 studies, college students were socially influenced to be risky or not in a driving simulation. In both studies, confederate peers posing as passengers used verbal persuasion to affect driving behavior. In Study 1, participants encouraged to drive riskily had more accidents and drove faster than those encouraged to drive slowly or not encouraged at all. In Study 2, participants were influenced normatively or informationally to drive safely or riskily. As in Study 1, influence to drive riskily increased risk taking. Additionally, informational influence to drive safely resulted in the least risk taking. Together, the studies highlight the substantial influence of peers in a risk-related situation; in real life, peer influence to be risky could contribute to automobile accidents.