Definitions for Conformity
Social Influence - The process by which one’s behaviour, beliefs or attitudes are changed by the process or actions of other people. Examples may be majority influence, minority influence or obedience.
Conformity -This occurs when people adopt the behaviour, beliefs or attitudes of the majority after being exposed to their values/behaviour.
Aronson said that conformity is yielding to group pressure. This pressure to give in may be real (e.g a group of friends encourage a person to join in with their smoking) or it may be unspoken/ imagined (e.g you might see it as an expectation of society to behave in a particular way)
Rules governing our behaviour are called social norms- standards of behaviour that are expected of us.
The three types of conformity
Kelman suggested there are 3 types of conformity that serve 3 different purposes:
Compliance - Going along with the groups attitudes, but not believing it yourself. Your public behaviour changes, but your personal opinion does not.
Internalisation - Most permanent form, it happens when a person changes their public behaviour and their personal opinion. A good example is religious beliefs.
Identification - We see others in the group as role models, and we want to be like them, For example dressing a certain way.
Aim: To discover if the power of the group would make a participant give an incorrect answer to a very easy task.
Procedure: Participants were all American males. Asch showed a pair of cards to the participant( and the confederates) He then asked them what line on the second card matched the first one.The anive participant was placed in a group with 6 confederates. He was always sitting last but one.The confederates gave the wrong answers 12/18 times.
Findings: On 32% if the critical trials, participants conformed to the majority. 74% conformed at least once, 36% never conformed. The people who never conformed did show signs of stress & doubt.
Conclusion: Asch showed that the power of the group can make a naïve participant give an obviously wrong answer to an easy task.
Evaluation Of Asch's study
The study did show conformitive behaviour, but:
The task was trivial, and unimportant to peoples belief systems, so it lacked ecological validity.
Crutchfield did a variation of Asch’s experiment, but using reallife statements. He found a 30% conformity rate. This supported asch’s study.
Asch carried out his experiment in the Mccarthyism period, which is known for its very conservite views, and people were frowned upon if they went against the grain. People applied this to Asch’s study, saying it had temporal validity.
It was an all male sample (androcentric) So it cannot be generalised to women, because women may have acted differently.
It was an all american sample (ethnocentric) So it cannot be generalized to collectivist cultures. His study was also criticized for being unethical – Asch broke serveral of the ethics guidelines.
Variations of Asch's study
The level of conformity dropped when there was a dissenter. This reduced conformity to 5% .
When the size of the group was only two people, conformity dropped to 12.8%.
Baron And Bryne suggested that if the group rises over 3 or 4, the people may suspect something was going on (therefore demand characteristics)
When the difficulty of the task increased, the level of conformity increased.
25 physically and mentally fit participants agreed to take part in a mock prison experiment.
Local police were recruited to arrest the ‘prisoners’ from their homes. The prisoners were blindfolded, stripped and deloused.
There were 3 guards, who were permitted to devise most of the rules.
The study had to be discounted after 6 days, because the guards committed to their roles with such zeal.
Evaluation of Zimbardo
Participants did not give fully informed consent
Critics argue that Zimbardo's study lacks validity, they suggested that participants' behaviour was the result of demand charactertistics.One cruel guard said he watched the film Cool Hand Luke and based his performance on the main character. They suggested that participans just acted the way they thought Zimbardo wanted them too.
Participants were humiliated and dehumanised by the initation procedure when they arrived at the prison - they were not protected from harm.
The ends do not justify the means and the study became too real for the participants, it should have not been carried out.
Why do people conform?
Informational social influence( the need to be right):
This occurs when there is no correct or obvious answer to the question. In this situation, we often turn to others for support, because we do not know what else to do.
Normative social influence:
This ocurs due to a basic need to be accepted by a group.This need is so strong that the group often does not need to be meaningful to us, it can be a group of random strangers, like in Asch’s study.