3 Psych Essays

3 essays on conformity, minority influence and obedience to authority

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  • Created by: Grace Cox
  • Created on: 23-09-10 19:15
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Outline and evaluate research into conformity
There are three types of conformity, as proposed by Kelman:
compliance, internalisation and identification. Compliance is when someone
acts in accordance with somebody else's opinions so as to gain approval
and avoid disapproval. Internalisation is when someone acts in accordance
with somebody else's opinions because they genuinely agree, both
publically and privately, and identification is when somebody accepts
influence in order to establish relations with another person or group, this
type of conformity has aspects of both compliance and internalisation ­
the individual may accept that the view they have adopted is correct, but
the actual purpose of changing their opinion was to comply with somebody
The main psychological experiment into conformity was done by
Asch in 1956; he asked student volunteers to take part in a supposed test
of vision, however all but one of each group was a confederate and the
experiment was actually to see how people respond to the behaviour of the
confederates. There were 123 male American undergraduate volunteers
that were tested by Asch, he showed each group a series of lines and asked
each group to individually say which lines matched, the real participants
always answered last or second to last, so that the confederates always
answered first. The confederates were instructed to answer blatantly
wrongly on 12 of the 18 trials, to see whether the majority influence of
each group could coerce the participants into agreeing with them, even
though they knew it was wrong.
Asch found that 38% of the responses made by the participants
were incorrect, meaning that they had conformed to the incorrect response
given by the confederates, only 25% of the participants never conformed.
Asch conducted a control trial with no confederates to see how likely it
was that the participants could get the answers incorrect regardless of
the pressure to conform, he found that around only 1% of the participants
made true mistakes. The reasons people conformed, according to Asch's
participant interviews subsequent to the experiment, were distortion of
perception, distortion of judgement and distortion of action. The majority
of participants which conformed did so due to distortion of action ­
whereby they adapted their opinion externally to fit in with the group of
confederates but internally believed they were incorrect, this is
With regards to Asch's findings, some psychologists such as Perrin
and Spencer felt that they cannot be considered valid due to the feeling of
McCarthyism and the `red scare' in America at that time, which would have
affected the willingness of participants to tell the truth as opposed to
conforming. Perrin and Spencer repeated Asch's study in England in the
late 1970's and found only 1 conforming response out of 369 trials;
although these participants were science and engineering students, and
therefore may have been more confident in their ability to predict
line-length. In a subsequent study Perrin and Spencer repeated the
experiment again using youths on probation as participants and probation
officers as confederates ­ they found similar results to Asch. This

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Another point regarding validity may be that the task of comparing lines
seems inconsequential, and a participant may be willing to conform just to
save face in what seems like an insignificant situation.…read more

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In terms of evaluation, Moscovici's research has low ecological
validity and mundane realism; this is proved by the study of real life events,
although I have mentioned that the suffragettes managed to change the
established social norms and gain the right to vote, this is incredibly rare
when considering other minorities.…read more

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However the confederate never actually received any electric shock.
The confederate answered mainly wrong answers, and faked crying out in
pain as their electric shocks became supposedly more and more painful. If
the participants tried to stop, the authority figure would repeat various
`prods' such as "it is imperative that you continue".…read more

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­ although Milgram did offer counselling for as long as
necessary. Finally, Milgram's experiment could be considered as not
allowing the right to withdraw, because although they were assured at the
beginning of the experiment that they could leave, people may have felt
guilty leaving after having been paid, and the `prods' that the authority
figure used included phrases such as `you have no other choice: you must
continue' and `it is imperative that you continue'.…read more


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