Explanations of Conformity

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  • Created by: Holly
  • Created on: 14-05-15 15:27

Normative Social Influence

The underlying motive for this type of conformity is the desire to be accepted by others and to avoid rejection.

From an evolutionary point of view, this is necessary for survival.

NSI involves getting others to like and respect you, and the best way to achieve this is by agreeing with their views.

NSI doesn't always indicate true compliance, and can involve having to compromise your opinions.

As a result, it is a fairly weak form of conformity.

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Informational Social Influence

Humans have a need to feel that their beliefs and behaviours are correct so that they can feel they are in control of their environment.

From an evolutionary perspective, this has survival benefits.

When in new or uncertain situations, individuals look for guidance from others as to how they should behave.

ISI involves being 'converted' to the views of others as you believe them to be correct and more knowledgable than yourself.

It's seen as a stronger form of conformity.

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Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is caused by simultaneously having two contradictory ideas.

Altering ideas so they become compatible with each other reduces cognitive dissonance.

This can be achieved through conformity.

It's an unpleasant feling of anxiety.

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Individual Differences

People with low self-esteem, a need for approval and feelings of insecurity, high anxiety and self-blame are associated with high levels of conformity.

This is because of their need for group acceptance and low levels of independent thought.

Several researchers have found that women conform more - possibly because females have a higher evolutionary drive for co-operation.

Some researchers believe this finding is due to flawed methodology where male researchers got participants to conform to male type activities that are unfamilier to females.

They then conform due to ISI.

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Cultural Factors - Asch

People from collectivist cultures are more conformist.

Asch - investigated the extent to which people conform to an obviously wrong answer. 123 male students were tested individually in groups of 7-9 confederates. The real participant answered last or second to last. Participants had to select which of the three stimulus lines matched a comparison line. On 12 out of 18 trials, confederates gave an identical correct answer.  An overall conformity rate of 32% was found. 75% of participants conformed at least once. 25% never conformed. 5% conformed on all occasions. The findings suggest normative social influence occurs, involving public but not private acceptance of the group's opinions in order to avoid rejection.

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Cultural Factors - Jenness

Jenness - investigated how discussion with others would affect judgements in an uncertain situation. Participants made individual estimates of jelly-beans in a jar and then discussed their judgements with the group in order to reach a group estimate. They then made a second individual estimate. Most of the second individual estimates moved closer to the group estimate, and there was greater conformity amongst females. The findings suggest informational social influence occurs, involving public and private acceptance by looking to the opinions of others in order to be correct.

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Cultural Factors - Bogdonoff et al

Using a procude similar to Asch's, they assessed the amount of stress produced by measuring galvanic skin response. They found heightened stress levels in participants when faced with a majority opinion that seemed incorrect. However, stress levels decreased with conformity, which supports the idea that conformity can sometimes occur due to a reduction in cognitive dissonance by reducing the inconsistency between two incompatible cognitions (one's own beliefs and the beliefs of others).

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Cultural Factors - Eagly & Carli

They found women to be more conformist, suggesting that men display more independent behaviour. However, Eagly and Chrvala found that older women are more conformist than older men, but younger women are no more conformist than younger men. This implies that factors other than gender (such as age) may be involved.

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Cultural Factors - Berry

Berry found that the people of Sierra Leone are moe conformist than the Innuits of Canada. He related this to the nature of economic subsistence in the two cultures. The people of Sierra Leone rely on a single crop that requires high levels of cooperation to cultivate, which the Innuits hunt in an individualistic manner. This suggests that culturally determined degrees of cooperation contribute to conformity levels.

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