Social Influence

Conformity - and useful studies for this

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  • Created on: 18-05-09 11:44
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Social Influence
Conformity (Majority Influence) - changing a behaviour or opinion in order to fit in with a group
e.g. Smoking. People may conform due to fear of rejection, fear of not looking popular or fear of
looking stupid.
1. Asch's Conformity Study
Aim - to see if people will stick to an answer they believe, or follow the crowd for an
obviously wrong answer in an unambiguous situation
Procedure - 123 male American's shown a series of lines, and asked to match with another.
PPs answer in same order each time, 6-8 confederates first, 1 real PP answer last.
Confederates purposely incorrect on 12 of 18 trials.
PPs conformed on 36.8% of critical trials, 75% conformed at least once, control condition
only 1% error, 25% never conformed.
PPs said they conformed because of distortion of perception, distortion of judgement and
distortion of action.
Variations - more difficult, more conformity; majority of 2, little conformity, majority of 3,
30% more conformity, majority of 4+, little change in conformity; with 2 real PPs or
confederate giving correct answer, conformity dropped from 32% to 5.5%
2. Affecting majority influence - mode of response (verbal/written), culture, task difficulty, social
support, gender, size of majority, personality, group identification
3. Milgram's Obedience Study
Aim - to see if ordinary Americans would obey an unjust order to inflict pain on anther
Procedure - 40 male volunteers to take place in a memory test at Yale University lab.
Experimenter told PPs that study concerned role of punishment in learning. When student
(confederate) got answer wrong, teacher had to give electric shock.
Findings - all reached 300V, 65% all way to 450V
Conclusions - under certain circumstances mot people will obey orders that go against
Criticisms - potential harm to PPs, experimental validity of electric shocks, ecological validity
- results generalised for other situations?
Variations of the study: Teacher/student in same room - 47.5%
Teacher force students hand to plate - 40%
Teacher supported by two others to stop - 30%
Teaching assistant controls shock - 92.5%
Researcher tells teacher to persist over the phone - 20.5%
Obey because authority is right, taking orders from authority, gradual commitment
4. Bickman
Aim - to see if highly visible signs of authority (such as uniform) influence levels of obedience
Procedures - Three male experimenters dressed in a coat and tie, milkman uniform and
guard's uniform. Three orders given; "Pick up this bag for me", "This fellow is over parked at
the meter but doesn't have any change. Give him a dime", and "Don't you know you have to
stand on the other side of the pole. This sign says 'No Standing'."
Findings - people were most likely to obey the guard
Conclusions - visible symbols of authority increase obedience levels
Criticisms - real life situation, supports Milgram
5. Hoffling

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Aim - to see if nurses would obey an order from a doctor that breached hospital regulations
and was contrary to safe practise
Procedures - Real life hospital environment. Unknown doctor rings hospital, talks to nurse
and asks her to administer 20mgs of Astroten (actually a harmless substance) to take effect
before he arrives. If she obeys, she breaks rules e.g. 2x maximum dosage, accepting
instruction over phone from unfamiliar person, acting without signed order from doctor.…read more


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