Basic overview - 2 points
Conformity is a form of social Influence where group pressure, real or imagined results in a change of behaviour.
Conformity includes the following features: a change in behaviour, a group (any group important to the individual, this may be a membership group - a group to which we belong- or a reference group - a group we don't belong but we look up to) or pressure, imagined or real.
Sherif 1935 - 5 points
AIM- to investigate whether people would be influenced by others in a situation where the answer isn't clear (ambiguous.)
METHOD- the design used was repeated measures. Participants were tested individually and shown a point of light in a darkened room, but the light was not moving. Each participant was told to estimate how far the light moved and in which direction. In a darkerned room, a point of light does appear to be moving - this is the auto kinetic effect. Participants were tested on a number of trials and gave very different answers. Participants were then put into groups and asked to describe light movement. This was repeated several times.
RESULTS- the participants answers converged and they gave very similar answers
CONCLUSION- in an ambiguous situation participants are influenced by the judgements of others
EVALUATION- nothing which to measure the light against and it's an ambitious situation so sherif didn't reveal anything new of human nature. This prompted Asch to conduct his unambiguous study
Asch 1951- 4 points
AIM- to investigate whether people would conform to the judgements of others in situations where judgements were clearly wrong.
METHOD- male students were asked to take part in an experiment of visual discrimination. There was only one naive participant in each group and all the others were stooges. They were asked to decide which of the three lines was the same size as the comparison size. They said their answer aloud second to last of the group. There were 18 trials - on 6 neutral trials the stooges gave the correct answer, but on the other 12 they all gave the wrong answer. There was a control where 37 people gave their answer in private.
RESULTS- only 0.7% errors made in the control condition. 37% error in the experimental condition.
CONCLUSION- Asch concluded the 37% was due to social influence as it was evident it was a very easy task due to the 0.7% in the control. Even in an unambiguous situation, conformity occurs.
Why did people conform in Asch's experiment?- 7 po
After the experiment, Asch asked his participants how they felt in the group. All said they felt uncomfortable and doubtful of their own judgements, even lonely. When asked why they conformed, they said:
o Their perception must have been inaccurate, perhaps suffering from eye strain or sitting in a bad position.
o Didn't want to stand out or look inferior or stupid
o didn't want to be an outcast
o Wanted to convey a good impression
o didn't want to spoil the experiment or upset the experimenter (demand characteristics)
Asch concluded a major factor in conformity was to avoid conflict and social disapproval. Asch did a another replication of his study where there was one stooge and 16 naive participants and found that when the stooge gave the incorrect answer, the naive participans laughed and ridiculed him. This shows that conformity may be due to avoid conflict and disapproval.
Evaluation Of Aschs work - 2 points
It was done under vigorous highly experimental conditions, so Asch was able to carry out highly statistical analyses on the data and his study can be replicated and is therefore reliable.
There are criticisms for lack of validity and there are concerns of ethical issues. It is a conformity study, yet 2/3rds did voice the correct answer. Conformity is presented as a negativity but if fact is a very positive thing- it helps social stability and provide expectations of behaviour and so ensuring structure to social groups.
Variations to Asch's experiment - 5 points
o Size of majority- Asch ran groups where the size of majority was changed from 1 to 16. One person had no effect on conformity. Two stooges produced 13% errors, three produced 33% errors, but further additions did not increase the percent of conformity.
o Unamity - Asch wondered if it was the participant feeling alone hat encouraged conformity. He added a 'support' that broke the Unamity before the naive answered and gave a different answer to the rest of the group. This reduced conformity to 5.5%.
o Task difficulty- the more difficult the task, the greater the conformity. Results show those who believe they are more competent in a task conform less than others. The experiment was repeated with engenieer, math and chemistry students and these remained independent as these students could be educated to be precise when using lines.
o Self-esteem - Asch concluded those with low self esteem conform more than those with high self esteem, which could be due for need of social approval.
o Anonymity - when a participant wrote his answer privately, conformity dropped to 12% this suggests we re still influenced by others, even privately. Things such as the media influencing us is an example of this.
o Status of group majority- the higher the group status, the higher the level of conformity.
Why do people conform?
Asch's research revealed two main explanations for conformity- NORMATIVE social influence and INFORMATIONAL social influence
Normative social influence
An explanation of conformity which is a result of people's need to be seen as part of the group and not going against the norms of the group. It is evident in Asch's study.The individual wants to be liked and respected by the group, as the group seems powerful and important to the individual. This agreement is public, but not usually private opinion. This is known as compliance, as the individual conforms but doesn't change private opinion which may disagree. This type of conformity usually disappears after group pressure is removed.
Informational social influence
An explanation of conformity which is a result of peoples need to be right. The individual turns to others in times of uncertainty and conforms as they believe the majority have the correct knowledge. Sherif found this in his autokinetic studies. This tends to result in private agreement as well as public agreement. This type of conformity is internalisation, agreeing with the group in need to be right. This type of conformity persists even when group pressure is removed.