Slides in this set
Yielding to group pressure because a person wants to fit in with the
When a person lacks knowledge and looks to the group for guidance.
Or when a person is in an ambiguous situation and socially compares
their behaviour with the group (Sherif)
Publicly changing behaviour to fit in with the group while privately
Adopting the behaviour of a group both publically and privately
because you value the membership of that group
Publicly changing behaviour to fit in with the group and also
agreeing with them privately (Sherif)…read more
An experiment with the aim of demonstrating that people conform to group norms
when they are put in an ambiguous situation.
Sherif used a lab experiment to study conformity. He used the autokinetic effect this
is where a small spot of light in a dark room will appear to move, even though it is still.
It was discovered that when participants were individually tested their estimates on
how far the light moved varied considerably (e.g. from 20cm to 80cm). The participants
were then tested in groups of three. Sherif manipulated the composition of the group by
putting together two people whose estimate of the light movement when alone was
very similar, and one person whose estimate was very different. Each person in the
group had to say aloud how far they thought the light had moved.
Sherif found that over numerous trials of the movement of light, the group converged
to a common estimate. As the figure below shows: the person whose estimate of
movement was greatly different to the other two in the group conformed to the view of
the other two.
Sherif said that this showed that people would always tend to conform. Rather than
make individual judgments they tend to come to a group agreement.
The results show that when in an ambiguous situation, a person will look to others for
guidance. They want to do the right thing but may lack the appropriate information.
Observing others can provide this information. This is known as informational
An experiment to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could
affect a person to conform.
Asch used a lab experiment to study conformity. Using the line judgment task, Asch put a
naive participant in a room with seven confederates. The confederates had agreed in advance
what their responses would be when presented with the line task. The real participant did not
know this and was led to believe that the other seven participants were also real participants
like themselves. Each person in the room had to state aloud which comparison line was most
like the target line. The answer was always obvious. The real participant sat at the end of the
row and gave his or her answer last. In some trials, the seven confederates gave the wrong
answer. There were 18 trials in total and the confederates gave the wrong answer on 12
trails. Asch was interested to see if the real participant would conform to the majority view.
Asch measured the number of times each participant conformed to the majority view. On
average, about one third (32%) of the participants who were placed in this situation went along
and conformed with the clearly incorrect majority. Over the 18 trials about 75% of participants
conformed at least once and 25% of participant never conformed.
When they were interviewed after the experiment, most of them said that they did not really
believe their conforming answers, but had gone along with the group for fear of being ridiculed
or thought "peculiar". A few of them said that they really did believe the group's answers were
correct. This shows that people conform for two main reasons: because they want to fit in with
the group (normative influence) and because they believe the group is better informed than
they are (informational influence).…read more
Evaluation of Asch
· Sample Size-
All participants were male students who all belonged to the
same age group (biased sample). The task (judging line
lengths) was artificial (low in ecological validity) as it is
unlikely to happen in everyday life. Therefore, it is not similar
to a real life situation demonstrating conformity.
· Ethical issues-
Participants were not protected from psychological stress
which may occur if they disagreed with the majority. Asch
deceived the student volunteers claiming they were taking part
in a 'vision' test; the real purpose was to see how the 'naive'
participant would react to the behaviour of the confederates.
· A child of its time-
Conformity was the social norm in 1950's America. The era of
individualism, `doing your own thing', did not take hold until
the 1960s.…read more