Variables Affecting Conformity

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  • Variables affecting conformity
    • Key Study: Asch
      • 123 male US undergrad student volunteers in a visual discrimination task
        • all  but 1 were confederates (in each experiment)
      • Aim was to see how to PP would react to the behaviour of the confederates
      • PP's were asked to look at 3 line and a standard line and were asked what of the 3 lines was the same height as the standard line
        • Real PP always answers 2nd to last
      • 12 out of 18 trials confederates all gave the same incorrect answer
        • To see if real PP would stick to his gut or fall under the pressure
      • Findings: on the 12 critical trial conformity was 33%. When Asch later interviewed the PP's he found that the majority of them has continued to privately trust themselves but publicly changed their behaviour to avoid disapproval therefore showing compliance
    • Variables:
      • Group size: size of the majority is important but  only up to a point
      • The unanimity of the majority: when the PP was given support conformity levels dropped even if they were still not giving the right answer along as it was different from the majority
      • The difficulty of the task: when to correct answer was less obvious conformity rate increased, however there are situational and individual differences to be taken into account
    • Evaluation:
      • Asch's research may be a child of its time:
        • Asch's finding are unique due to to period of Us history when conformity was high (strong anti-communist period) where people were scared to go against the majority
          • Perrin and Spencer repeated Asch's study in the UK in the 1980's using science and engineering students
            • In the initial study they found one conformity case out of 396 trials
              • The following study they used youths on probation as PP's and probation officers as confederates  and found similar results to Asch's original study
                • This confirmed that conformity is more likely if the costs of not conforming is high
      • Problems with determining the affect of group size:
        • Bond pointed out that no studies apart from Asch's have used a majority size greater than 9 and in some studies the range of majority size was between 2-4
          • The suggests we know little about the effect of larger majority sizes on levels of conformity
      • Independent behaviour rather than conformity:
        • Only 1/3 of the trials where majority all gave the sam wrong answer produced a conforming response
          • Asch believed that rather than showing humans to be overly conformist he demonstrated the commendable tendency of PP's to stick to what they believed and this shows independent behaviour
      • Unconvincing confederates?
        • A study done by More and Arai where PP's wore tinted glasses that were different from the rest of the group this ensured that all saw the same stimuli but they saw it differently
          • This had the effect of causing them to judge that a different line match the standard one for females the results matched closely to that of Asch's study but not for the males
            • This suggest that the confederates in Asch's study acted convincingly
      • Cultural differences in conformity:
        • Smith (2006) analysed the results of across different cultures where he found an average conformity rate of 31.2%
          • The conformity rate for individualist cultures was 25% whereas collectivist culture has 37%
            • Suggesting that a higher level of conformity arises in collectivist cultures because it is viewed more favourably


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