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  • Created on: 04-05-16 13:31



Genuinely accepting group norms - Holding the same views privately as well as publically


Publically changing veiws (even if private views are different) to become a part of a group because it is valued


Superficially going along with the group - Holding different views privately than publically

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Conforming to a group because they are believed to have the right answer - A desire to be right

More likely to occur in situations that are new or where there is some ambiguity


Conforming to a group to fit in - A desire to not stick out

More likely to occur in unfamiliar situations and with people that are known

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Explanations Eval. Strengths


There is research support - Lucas et al. (2006) asked students to give answers to difficult maths problems. There was more conformity to incorrect answers when the problems were difficult; this was mainly in the students that rated their maths ability as poor - High validity


There is research support - Asch (1951) asked participants to explain why they agreed with the wrong answer. Some said they were afraid of dissapproval. - High validity

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Explanations Eval. Limitations


There are individual differences - Asch (1955) found that students were less conformist than other participants. Perrin and Spencer (1980) also found less conformity in students. People who are knowledgeable or more confidentare less influenced by the views of the majority - Lacks population validity


There are individual differences - People that care more about social approval are more affected by normative social influence. McGhee and Teevan (1967) found that students who had a greater need for social relationships were more likely to conform - Lacks population validity


The 'two-process' approach is oversimplified - The approach states behaviour is caused by either informational social influence or normative social influence. It isn't always possible to know which social influence is affecting the situation - Lacks reliability

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Asch 1951

AIM             Investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group affect a person to conform

DESIGN                                              Labartory experiment

PARTICIPANT                              123 American male students

PROCEDURE                     Each participant was tested individually with a group of 7 confederates. They were shown standard line graphs and asked to identify the line that was the same length as the comparison line. 18 trials were conducted with each participant; in 12 the confederates gave the same wrong answer

FINDINGS      Participants conformed 36.8% of the time, 75% conformed at least once, 25% never conformed, 5% always conformed

CONCLUSION           High levels of conformity were because participants did not want to stand out

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Asch 1955 Variations


The number of confederates varied betwen 1 and 15

With two confederates the naive participants conformed 13.6% of the time; with three it was 31.8%

Th addition of more confederates after made little difference


A confederate gave a different answer to the other confederates

Conformity reduced when the dissenting confederate was introduced; 25% of the time the naive participant gave the wrong answer


The comparison was made harder by making the lines more similar in length

Conformity increased when the task was harder

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Asch Eval. Strengths

High degree of control - Cause-and-effect relationship can be established - High validity

Replicatable - The study can be repeated by other researchers which means more results can be collected - High reliability

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Asch Eval. Limitations

Child of its time - Perrin and Spencer (1980) found the only one out of 396 trials had a conforming response. Participants were more confident with measuring lines than Asch's original sample. The 50's were a conformist time in America so people would have been more likely to conform so that they do not stand out - Lacks historical validity

The situation and task were artificial - Demand characteristics may have affected the results as the participants knew they were in a study. The findings cannot be generalised to everyday situations as people interact with groups differently and conformity has a more important impact on events - Lacks external validity

Not generalisable - Only American male students were used in the study so the findings may be limited to American men. This is because the results may not apply to women or men of older/younger ages. The results also may not apply to other cultures/countries - Lacks population validity

The findings may only be generalisable to certain situations - Participants gave their answers out loud and were with groups of strangers. This means that conformity levels may have been higher or lower than usual. Williams and Sogon (1984) found that conformity was higher when the majority was friends not strangers

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Zimbardo 1973

AIM            To investigate how readily people conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise

PARTICIPANT                     24 'emotionally stable' male students

PROCEDURE                   The basemet of Stanford University was converted into a mock prison. Participants were randomly allocated the roles of prison guard and prisoner. To reinforce te roles prisoners were realistically arrested in their homes, blindfolded, *****-searched, deloused, given smock uniforms and referred to as number rather than name. Guards were given uniforms, night sticks, handcuffs, keys, mirror shades and instructed to keep the prisoners under control. Zimbardo played a role of prison warden.

FINDINGS      Prisoners rebelled against the guards within two days. They tore their uniforms and shouted and swore at guards. The guards constantly harrassed the prisoners by conducting frequent head counts. The guards behaviour affected the prisoners psychological and physical health. 

CONCLUSION      All participants and researchers conformed to their roles quickly, showing social roles have a massive impact on conformity

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Zimbardo Eval. Strengths

Researchers had control over some variables - Emotionally stable participants were recruited; the roles were randomly given to them. This means that their behaviours were due to the pressures of the situation and not their personalities - High internal validity

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Zimbardo Eval. Limitations

Potentially lacked realism - Banuazizi and Mohavedi (1975) suggested participants were just play-acting; their performances were stereotypical of prison guard and prisoner behaviour. Guard based their roles off characters and prisoners rioted because they thought it was what real prisoners did. However 90% of the prisoners conversations in the study were about prison life showing the simulation seemed real to them.

Lacks research support and has been contradicted by subsequent research - Reicher and Haslam (2006) partially replicated the study and got different results; prisoners eventually took control. This may have been because guards failed to develop shared social identity as a group but the prisoners did. This means that the brutality of the guards in the original study may have been due to a shared social identity rather than conformity to social roles - Lacks reliability

Major ethical issues - A student wanted to leave the study and spoke to Zimbardo (as he was acting prison warden) and Zimbardo responded as his role rather than a researcher. This limited Zimbardo's ability to protect participants from physical and psychological harm as a direct result of the experiment. This is because his warden role conflicted with his role as the lead researcher.

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