Types of conformity

Conformity = A change in a person's behaviour or opinions as a result of real or imagined pressure from a group. 

Types of conformity:

  • Compliance = Superficial agreement with the group. Change in public behaviour but not private beliefs. Result of normative social influence. Short term change. 
  • Identification = Change in public behaviour and private beliefs but only in the presence of the group. Middle level and short term change. 
  • Internalisation = Adaptation of the viewpoints and attitudes of a group. Conformity because they believe the groups' viewpoints. Highest level and long-term change. 

Explanations for conformity:

  • Informational social influence = Agreeing to gain information or because they believe the group knows better. Used in unfamiliar or crisis situations. 
  • Normative social influence = Aggreing because they want to be liked/accepted. Social situations. 
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Conformity: Types and Explanations: Evaluation

  • NSI does not affect everyone's behaviour in the same way. nAffiliators are more likely to conform as they have a greater desire to be liked. This is a limitation as it means that NSI is not a complete explanation for authority. 
  • Research evidence for ISI. Lucas et al. asked students maths questions from easy to difficult. When the questions were more difficult conformity was more likely. Most true for students considered to be 'bad' at maths. This supports ISI as people conform in situations where they don't feel they know the answer. 
  • Unrealistic to believe that NSI and ISI work independently. Dual-process hypothesis. It is impossible to isolate one or the other in a lab study, as this is a real-world phenomenon. 
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Study of conformity - Asch 1951

Participants: 123 American male undergraduates.

Procedure: Line judgement task. 18 trials per naive participant with 16 critical trials. Unambiguous task. Groups of 8 w/ 7 confederates.

Findings: 75% of participants conformed at least once.

Conclusion: Most participants conformed due to NSI. 

Factors that affect conformity:

  • Group size, adding in more confederates before the participant. Rose by 32%
  • Unanimity of the majority, presence of another dissenter, social pressure, reduced by a 1/4.
  • Task difficulty, making the lines more similar, ISI plays an increased role. Increased. 
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Evaluating Asch (1951)

Social influence in its nature needs to be looked at in the real world, this makes ecological validity of the utmost importance. 

  • Limitation: Ethics: Deception = The participants were deceived about the aim of the study 
  • Limitation: Lacks historical validity: Occurred in 1950's America. An era of high conformity in the USA for fear of being seen as anti-American. McCarthyism. 
    • This limitation is supported by Perrin and Spencer (1981) who repeated Asch experiment with engineering students with only 0.25% conformity. This may be because they were engineering students so used to making length decisions or because it took place in 1980's England without McCarthyism. 
    • Limitation: Low population validity: All participants were male. Eagly and Carli's meta-analysis showed that women were more compliant. Possibly explained by gender roles. 
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Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment (197

Aim: To investigate whether prison guards because brutal due to their disposition or situation.

Participants: 21 male undergraduates who applied from a newspaper Ad and had been screened for mental abnormalities.                                                                                                         

Method: Guards helped to set up the fake prison. 'Prisoners' were arrested at home by real police. After two days an unsuccessful rebellion was thrown. Three prisoners were released early as they were emotionally disturbed. Prisoners became withdrawn as the guards became more brutal. Both conformed to their roles. The study was stopped on day 6 instead of day 14.              Conclusion: The study showed the power of the situation to shape behaviour. 

Conformity to social roles: 

  • Dispositional hypothesis = People behave the way they do due to personalities
  • Situational hypothesis = People behave the way they do due to factors in their environment

Identification takes place when we conform to social roles as people grant value to their individual roles when told to act a certain way. 

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Evaluating Zimbardo

  • Strength: Validity: Zimbardo screened all the students to make sure they were psychologically normal.
    • Used random allocation for guards and prisoners.
    • Any difference in behaviour was due to their disposition. 
  • Weakness: Reliability: Reicher and Haslman repeated the Standford Prison Experiment in the UK in 2006 and the participants did not conform as quickly and the system was overthrown by the prisoners.
    • This does not support Zimbardo's findings. 
  • Weakness: Ethics: Psychological harm caused by investigator bias.
    • Short term damage was done before the participants were allowed to withdraw. Zimbardo was clouded by investigator bias. 
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A study of obedience: Milgram's research

Aim: To find out if ordinary people would obey an unjust order from an authority figure and inflict pain just because they were told to.

Participants: 40 male volunteer participants, responded to an ad in a local paper, $4.50

Procedure: Lab at Yale University. Experimenter and Mr Wallace were the confederates. Real participants were always assigned the role of teacher. The teacher would read the learner word pairs and test the recall. Instructed to administer an electric shock with each mistake. Given a sample electric shock to show it was real. 

180 volts = Complained of a weak heart

300 volts = banged on the wall and demanded to leave

315 volts = became silent, dead?

Findings: 65% went to the full 450 volts.

Conclusion: Under the right circumstances ordinary people will obey unjust orders.

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Evaluating Milgram (1963)

Strength: Good external validity:Hofling et al. (1966) found that nurses obeyed unjustified demands of providing a lethal dose of a drug to patients from a doctor over the telephone. (21 out of 22 nurses obeyed).

The process of obedience in Milgram’s study can be generalised. 

Limitation: Ethical issues: Deception of role allocation and reality of shock. According to Baumrind deception is a betrayal of trust that damages the reputation of psychologists and their research.

Deception of participants may make them less likely to participate in future research.

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Obedience: Situational variables

Proximity - Teacher and learner were in the same room, and the obedience rate dropped from 65% to 40%. 

Location - Moved to a run-down office block instead of Yale University. Obedience fell to 47.5%. Indicating that the experimenter had less authority in this setting. 

Uniform - In the baseline study, the experimenter wore a grey lab coat, in one variation the experimenter left because he was called at the start. He was then replaced by an 'ordinary member of the public' in everyday clothes. The obedience rate dropped to 20%, the lowest of the variations. 

Evaluation: May lack external validity - Participants were more likely to realise the experiment was faked because of the extra experimental manipulation. It is unclear whether the results are due to obedience or because participants saw the deception and 'play-acted'. 

Has been replicated in other countries - Miranda et al. (1981) was over 90% obedience in Spanish males. Findings are not limited to American males. Most replications have taken place in western countries, not that culturally different from the US. It is premature to presume this can be applied globally. 

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Obedience: Social-psychological factors

Agentic state - occurs when we act on behalf of another person. Autonomous state = to be independent or free. The agentic shift occurs when a person defers to the authority figure. Occurs when we perceive someone else as an authority figure. Binding factors reduce the 'moral strain' of obeying immoral orders. Allows the person to ignore or reduce the damaging effect of their behaviour. Legitimacy of authority - when we obey people at the top of the social hierarchy. Most of us accept that we must give up a small amount of control in return for a peaceful society. We hand over control of our behaviour due to trust and through upbringing. We trust people to exercise their authority appropriately. Charismatic leaders use their legitimate powers for destructive purposes, e.g. Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. 

Strength: Research support: Blass and Schmitt showed students a film of Milgram's study and they identified the experimenter as responsible rather than the teacher. This was because the experimenter was top of the hierarchy and had expert authority. Supporting the explanation of the legitimacy of authority. Limitation: Agentic state cannot account for the behaviour of the Nazi's, e.g. the German Reserve Police Battalion 101 - men shot civilians in a small town in Poland, they were not directly ordered to. They were told they could be assigned to other duties. This challenges the magnetic shift as they were not powerless to disobey. 

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Obedience: Dispositional explanations

  • The authoritarian personality: 
  • A high level of obedience is pathological. Unquestioning obedience is a pathological disorder. Authoritarian personality includes extreme respect for authority, contempt for 'inferiors', traditional views towards race and gender. Originates in overly strict parenting, and expectations of absolute loyalty. Also, conditional love - parent's love depends entirely on how the child behaves. 
  • Hostility towards parents is displaced onto those who are socially weaker. The child is unable to express feelings of hatred towards parents due to fear of reprisals. Scapegoating. 

Adorno et al. (1950): F-Scale. Over 2000 middle-class white Americans, e.g. 'There is hardly anything lower than a person who does not feel great love, gratitude and respect for his parents;'. 

A03: Explanation is limited - millions of Germans displayed anti-semitic behaviour but didn't all have the same personality. It seems unlikely everyone had an authoritarian personality. Social identity theory is more likely with German's identifying with the anti-semitic Nazi state and adopted its views. Support for the link between AP and obedience. Elms and Milgram interviews fully obedient participants - and they all scored highly on the F-scale. This is just a correlation between two variables and does not conclude a direct link. Both obedience and and authoritarian personality can be cause by a lower level of education. 

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Resistance to social influence

  • Social Support
  • Conformity is reduced by a dissenting peer (social support) - The dissenter doesn't have to give the 'right' answer but frees others to follow their own conscious. 
  • The effect is short - If a non-conformer starts to conform again, so does the naive participant. 
  • In Milgram's research: independent behaviour increased in the disobedient peer condition
  • Locus of control
  • Internal place control with themselves. Externals place control outside themselves. 
  • There is a continuum - with high internal and high external at opposite ends
  • Internals show greater resistance to social influence - if someone takes more responsibility for their actions they are more likely to base their own decisions on their own beliefs
  • People w/ a high internal LOC have less need for social approval, these lead to greater resistance
  • Research evidence supports the role of dissenting peers in resisting conformity. Allen and Levine found independence increased in an Asch-type study. Even if the dissenter wore thick glasses and said he had problems with vision. 
  • People who have conformed in the past in a certain situation will do so again even if they have a high internal LOC. So the role of LOC in resistance may be exaggerated. 
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Minority influence

  • Minority changes the opinions of others through internalisation
    • Both public behaviours and private beliefs are changed
  • Consistency - the minority view gains more interest
    • Synchronic consistency - everyone saying the same thing
    • Diachronic consistency - been saying the same thing for a long time
  • Commitment - helps gain attention, through extreme action, the majority pay more attention
  • Flexibility - balance consistency and flexibility so they don't appear rigid - adapt their POV
  • Snowball effect - minority become majority - social change has occurred

Wood et al. 1994 - conducted a meta-analysis of almost 100 studies where minorities viewed as being consistent were most influential. This confirms that consistency is a major factor in MI

Limitation - minority influence often involves artificial tasks. Moscovici's task was far from real life. Outcomes are far more important IRL, possibly life or death. Lack of external validity and are limited in real-life application. The majority can often be powerful w/ high status and minorities committed and tight-knit. 

Moscovici et al. 1969 - blue-green slides - Inconsistent minority condition - agreement fell to 1.25%

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Social Change

Lessons from minority influence research:

  1. Civil rights marches drew attention to segregation 

  2. A minority marched but they were consistent

  3. People started to think about how unjust segregation was

  4. ‘Freedom Riders’ were mixed racial groups who got on buses to challenge the segregated seating

  5. Snowball effect - Martin Luther King got the attention of the US government, and the Civil Rights Act was passed

  6. Social cryptomnesia occurred - where did the change occur?

Bashir et al. (2013) suggests people are less likely to behave in environmentally because they wanted to avoid being called a 'tree hugger'. Minorities should avoid behaving in ways that reinforce stereotypes. This shows that identification is as important as agreeing with views when trying to change behaviour. 

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