Evidence for a two-step model of social group influence

Emiel Cracco, Ulysses Bernardet, Robbe Sevenhant, Nette Vandenhouwe, Fran Copman, Wouter Durnez, Klaas Bombeke, Marcel Brass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social group influence plays an important role in societally relevant phenomena such as rioting and mass panic. One way through which groups influence individuals is by directing their gaze. Evidence that gaze following increases with group size has typically been explained in terms of strategic processes. Here, we tested the role of reflexive processes. In an ecologically valid virtual reality task, we found that participants were more likely to follow the group’s gaze when more people looked, even though they knew the group provided no relevant information. Interestingly, participants also sometimes changed their mind after starting to follow the gaze of the group, indicating that automatic imitation can be overruled by strategic processes. This suggests that social group influence is best explained by a two-step model in which bottom-up imitative processes first elicit a reflexive tendency to imitate, before top-down strategic processes determine whether to execute or inhibit this reflex.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104891
Number of pages12
Issue number9
Early online date6 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).


  • Biological sciences


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