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  • Created by: ava.scott
  • Created on: 06-05-14 18:09

Explanation of conformity

InformativeSocial Influence

Driven by human's desire to be right. They will listen to the majorities views, and then take them on as their own, both publicly and privately.

Normative social influence

Driven by human's desire to fit in. They observe behvaiours and views of the majority, and publicy agree/partake, but privately disagree.

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Conformity: insignificant studies/theories


Suggested that normative social influnece is most likley when you spend a lot of time with the group and they are important to you.

Insko's criticism

Insko said the two explanations often complement each other.

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Sherif's study of informative social influence

Aims: To investigate group norms using the autokinetic effect.

Procedure: Participants were places in a completely dark room and asked to estimate how far a spot of light moves.

Group 1) Put in groups of 3, and announced their judgement together.

Group 2)  Made their initial judgement in a group.

Findings: Both groups came to a norm, but Group 2 was quicker. Group 2 was also more likely to stick to the whole groups answer when asked independently.

Conclusions: when faced with an ambiguous situation, the participants are likely to look to eachother. This is informative social influence.

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Sherif's study: evaluation

Artificial and trivial:

The situation is hardly realistic and bears none of the social pressures as real life situations in which you may feel you need to conform. People may be more or less likely to conform when they think their decision will face consequences (this is just how much a dot moves in a dark room.) This means then study lacks ecological validity.


Sherif's study was carried out in 1935 where conventionalism was the norm. Perhaps people nowadays would be more likely to resist conformity.

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Asch's study of Normative social influence

Aims: To investigate a majorities effect on a obvious answer.

Procedures: 36 participants were asked to match one standard line with three possibilties.

In the control, only three mistakes were made over 20 trials (e.g. 3 mistakes in 720 trials.)

Participants were tested in groups of 7, 8 and 9. All other members of the group were confederates, and were intsructed to give the wrong answer. The naive participant was always last or second to last to say his answer. The confederates answered the first two trials correctly, then the third wrong and so one (12 critical trials and 8 neutral trials.)


  • Basic conformity rate: 37%
  • Participants who conformed on every trial: 5%
  • Participants who conformed atleast once: 74%
  • Participants who never conformed: 26%

Conclusions:  An obviously incorrect majority still has massive influence on a lone subject.

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Variations in Asch's research

Changing the number of confederates

  • One confederate and one particpant: conformity rate was 0%
  • Two confederates and one participant: conformity rate was 12.8%
  • Three confederates and one particpants: conformity rate was 32%
  • Conformity did not increase after this.

In larger groups, the number of people is unimportant, but group unanimity is. When a confederate agrees with a participant, conformity goes to 8.7%.

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Evaluations of Asch's study


  • It has many variations wihich show key factors in conformity.


  • Limited sample; all male college students. Less population validity.
  • Trivial task= low ecological validity
  • Time boundaries- 1950's america = very conventional
  • Deception (ethics)
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Types of Conformity

NOT to be confused with explanations e.g. informative


  • explained by normative social influence, as shown by Asch
  • Publicly changing your behaviour and views to fit in with the group while privately disagreeing.


  • explained by informative social inference, as shown by Sherif
  • Publicy and privately changing behaviours and views.
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Why people resist conformity

individualistic values

Particularly in western societies, people want to appear individual and different. This is displayed in a study where 10,000 students were either told they had similar or very different views to the other 10,000 students. The 'similar' ones were more likley to resist conformity in later tests.


People who desire a lot of control in their lives are more likely to resist conformity. This is shown in an experiment where those who wanted control reacted more defensive when offered help with a puzzle.

prior commitment/public opinion

People are much less likely to conform if they had made a previous commitment to an opinion.

time and social support

Many studies have shown that when given time people are less likely to conform. Social support is shown in Asch's study- when given an accomplice, conformity dropped to 8.7%

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