Social influence key studies

What key studies the specification asks for in social influence. 

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  • Social influence key studies
    • Asch
      • Procedure: 7 males were shown 4 lines, one the original and 3 comparative. they had to say which matched the original. only 1 of them was the real participant (the 5th person to answer), the other 6 were confederates, who were told what to give wrong answers
      • findings: participants conformed to the majority and gave wrong answer 37% of the time. 74% of the participants conformed at least once, 26% never conformed.
      • variations of the study
        • size of the group: when there was one stooge, the conformity was 3%, when three to fifteen (doesn't make a difference after 3) had conformity rate of 32%
        • unanimity: the group of confederates contained one dissenter who agreed with the participant (disagreeing with majority). Conformity went down to 5.5%
        • task difficulty: made it harder by using lines that were much more similar in length, this increased conformity
      • strengths of the study: well controlled laboratory experiment- this increases the reliability, for example they were all shown the same number of trials. Also Asch's study provided evidence for normative social influence.
      • weaknesses: Asch used 50 American males, results for females may have been different, therefore the results are not generalisable as the sample is unrepresentative.
        • Also it is criticised for lack of ecological validity because it took place in artificial conditions. conformity levels may have been high because they knew they were in a study.
        • It was unethical, they were deceived as they didn't know it was about conformity, so no informed consent.
    • Zimbardo
      • procedure: set out to be a 2 week study. randomly allocated to the roles of prisoners or guards. Prisoners 'arrested' and blindfolded and searched. No physical aggression from guards was allowed
      • findings: the guards harassed and humiliated prisoners and conformed to their role so much so, had to be ended after 6 days. In fact, in less that 36 hours a prisoner was suffering from emotional disturbance.
      • conclusion: when people are put in a social group and given a social role they will fulfil it and take it to the extreme.
      • what happened on the second day...
        • rebellion broke out, prisoners barricaded themselves inside cells. Guards blasted skin chilling CO2, broke into cells, stripped them, harassed them using psychological tactics
      • weaknesses: the prison wasn't realistic, they knew they were in an experiment so they displayed demand characteristics. Also Zimbardo was the super intendant, he found it hard to let them leave as he knew it would affect the study.
        • strength: it was well controlled, the environment was the same for everyone, they all wore the same uniforms, they were randomly allocated and assessed at the start
        • It broke a lot of ethical guidelines including protection of harm - increasingly aggressive behaviour and psychological harm. Also right to withdraw- weren't allowed to leave unless extreme distress
    • Milgram
      • procedure: participants told experiment was about learning. One of them told is a teacher, one the learner (fixed so learner always the confederate). They had to give learner shocks whenever they got an answer to question wrong.
        • the volts went up to 450V. Every wrong answer they go up 15V. the confederates reactions were recorded and played accordingly for participants. When they turned to experimenter they gave them verbal prods like 'please go on'
      • findings: 100% of particpants gave 300V shock. 65% went to full 450V. Most participants showed signs of stress eg sweat. 3 participants had a seizure. Most protested but verbal prods kept them going
      • weaknesses: broke lots of ethical guidelines, including deception right to withdraw, protection of harm, however he did fully debrief them. Also unrepresentative sample as used volunteer sample- people who volunteer tend to be psychologically different to those who don't.
        • Also Milgram's study would lack internal validity if participants knew shocks weren't real as Orne and Holland suggested.
      • strength: well controlled variables, allowing replication to test the reliability. for example the reactions from the learner was the same every time (it was a recording). the study has actually been replicated many times!


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