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Conformity - (Majority influence)
Types of conformity
Kelman suggested two types of conformity;
Compliance- Going along with the group without a change in personal opinion
Internalisation- Individuals are encouraged to engage in a validation process. Close examination of
the group's position may convince the individual that they are wrong and the group is right (conflict).
Ending in acceptance of the group's opinion publicly and privately.
123 male undergraduates
Task: Match a standard line with one of three comparison lines.
Seven participants were tested together. (Six were confederates of Asch)
Asked for their decision in order, going round the table - genuine participant seated last but one. The
six confederates were instructed to give the same incorrect answer on 12 out of the 18 trials
These 12 trials are known as the critical trials
For the 12 critical trials, participants conformed in 36.8% OF THE TRIALS
25% of the participants never gave a wrong answer
75% therefore conformed at least once
· In a group situation there is a surprisingly strong tendency to conform to group pressures when the
answer is in fact obvious.
Variations in the Asch study
The difficulty of the task- levels of conformity increased when the difference in length of the lines was
reduced. Lucas et al found that difficulty on conformity is moderated by the self-efficacy of the individual.
Size of the majority- the size of the majority is important up until a point, about 3.
The unanimity of the majority- conformity levels dropped from 32% to just 5.5% when allies were present.
Criticisms of Asch's research
McCarthyism- a period of strong anti- communist feeling in America when people were scared to be
different. Perrin and Spencer agreed, they tried to repeat Asch's study in England in the late 70's using
science and engineering students (1 out of 396). Later revised the study and used probation officers and
young offenders, and found similar levels of conformity to that of Asch. This suggests that conformity is more
likely when the perceived costs of non-conformity are high.
Conformity or independence?
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Only about one third of the trials where the majority unanimously gave the wrong answer, produced a
conforming response. Meaning two thirds stuck to their original opinion. Asch believed that rather than
showing human beings to be overly conformist, we actually show a lot of independent behaviour.
Culture and conformity: A meta-analysis (Smith and Bond 1998)
Smith and Bond analysed conformity studies carried out between 1952 and 1994 that had used the same
procedures as Asch's original study.…read more
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Explanations of why people conform
Normative social influence
To be liked- Humans are a social species and we need companionship and we fear social rejection
Support- Asch- Generally linked to compliance
Informational social influence
To be right- When there is no obvious correct answer we turn to others for information.
Support- Sherif Generally linked with internalisation
Social impact theory
Latane developed a theory to explain why people conform in some situations but not in others.…read more