Social Influences - Psychology

Here are the Social Influence topics, and Evaluations. 

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Variables affecting Conformity
Key study (Asch)
Aim: The purpose was to see how the lone `real' participant would react to the
behaviour of the confederates
Procedure: 123 male US undergraduates were tested, and asked to look at 3 different
lines all of different lengths, and had to match one of them to the standard line. They took turns to call out, with
the real participant always answering second to last. Asch was interested in whether the real participants would
stick to what they believed was right, or cave to the pressure of the majority.
Findings: On 12 critical trials the average conformity rate was 33%. One quarter of participants never conformed
on any of the trials and one in 20 of the participants conformed on all 12 of the critical trials.
Variables affecting conformity
Group Size: He found there was very little conformity when the majority consisted of just one or two
confederates. However, under the pressure of a majority of three confederates, the proportion of conforming
responses jumped up to about 30%. Further increase in the size of the majority did not increase this level of
conformity substantially.
The unanimity of the majority: When the real participants or a confederate who had been instructed to give the
right answer throughout, conformity levels dropped significantly, reducing the percentage of wrong answers from
33% to 5.5%.
There may be problems with determining the effect of group size
Bond points out that no studies other than Asch have used a majority size greater than nine, and in other studies
of conformity the range of majority sizes used is much narrower, typically between two and four.
This, suggests Bond, means we know very little about the effect of larger majority sizes on conformity levels.
Research suggests that there are important cultural differences in conformity, and we might therefore expect
different results, dependent on the culture it takes place.
Smith et al analysed the results of Aschtype studies across a number of different cultures. The average
conformity rate across the different cultures was 31.2%. What was interesting was that the average conformity

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Africa, Asia and South America
it was much higher at 37%.
Suggesting there are cultural differences in conformity.
Conformity to Social Roles
Key Study (Zimbardo) ­ Stanford Prison Experiment
Aim: to observe the interaction between the two groups in the absence if an obvious authority figure
Procedure: A mock prison was set up in the basement of the psychology department at Stanford University.…read more

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Zimbardo's study was considered ethical, because it followed the guidelines of the Stanford university ethics
committee that had approved it.
For example, no deception with all participants being told in advance that many of their usual rights would be
suspended. However, Zimbardo acknowledges that perhaps the study should have been stopped earlier as so
many of the participants were experiencing emotional distress.
This suggests that it is ethical as Zimbardo followed all the rules, and the SPE was approved beforehand.…read more

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Findings: In the voice feedback study, 26 of the 40 participants (65%) continued to the maximum shock level, 450
volts. This is despite the shock generator being labelled `danger: severe shock' at 420 volts and `XXX' at 450 volts.
In fact all participants went to 300 volts with only five (12.5%) stopping there, the point in which the learner first
objected.…read more

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Perry discovered that many of Milgram's participants had been sceptical at the time about whether the shocks
were real. One of Milgram's research assistant Taketo Murata had divided the participants into doubter and
believers. He found it was this latter group who were more likely to disobey the experimenter and give only low
intensity shocks
This suggests a lack of realism.…read more

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Although here are positive consequences of obedience to legitimate authority, it is also important to note that
legitimacy can serve as the basis for justifying the harming of others.
If people authorise another person to make judgements for them about what is appropriate conduct, they no
longer feel that their own moral values are relevant to their conduct.
As a consequence, when directed by a legitimate authority figure to engage in immoral actions, people are
alarmingly willing to do so.…read more

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Authoritarian Personality and the characteristics of obedient participants.
For example, when Elms and Milgram asked participants about their upbringing, many of the fully obedient
participants reported having a very good relationship with their parents, rather than having a grown up in the
overly strict family environment, associated with the authoritarian personality. It also seems implausible that,
given the large number of participants were fully obedient in Milgram's study, the vast majority would have
grown up in such harsh environment with a punitive father.…read more

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Social Support can be linked with the importance of response order
Researchers found that support was more effective when the confederates answered first instead of fourth
This suggests that when given the correct answer first it produced initial commitment for the real participant
Locus of Control
People differ in their beliefs about whether the outcome of their actions are dependent on what they do (internal)
or on events outside their personal control (external).
1.…read more

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In a controlled
condition, compromising six naive participants and no confederates. Participant called the slides blue
Findings: Showed that the consistent minority influenced the naïve participant to say green on over 8% of
trails, the inconsistent minority exerted very little influence and did not differ from controlled groups.…read more

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Nemeth argues that dissent, in the form of minority `opens' the mind, allowing people to be more creative
This view is supported by the work of can dyne and Saavedra who studied the role of dissent in work groups,
finding that groups had improved decision quality when exposed to minority perspective
Suggesting the real value of minority influence
Social Influence processes in social
Social change through minority influence
1.…read more


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