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Social influence - How those around us influence the way we act. This influence attributes to behaviour and thinking.

Conformity - A change in behaviour, thoughts or beliefs because of a group pressure.

Compliance - A change in behaviour not thoughts.

Identification - A temporary change in thoughts and behaviour.

Internalisation - A permanant change in behaviour and thoughts.

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Normative social influence.

Our desire to be liked. This is because others will approve of us and accept us. the desire to be liked is sometimes called compliance. 


Aim - to test whether we conform to majority influence.

Procedure - Participants were shown a card and asked which were the same length. the participant had a different card and gave the wrong answer 12 out of 18 times.

Findings - Participants incorrectly conformed 32% of the time, 74% conformed at least once, 26% never conformed.

Conclusion - There is a strong group pressure to conform. Some want to avoid feeling rejected and others doubting their judgments. 

Evaluation - Limited sample, all male college students, bias, time and place could affect findings.

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Informational social influence.

Our desire to be right. We look up to those who we assume are correct.

Sherif - He investeigated a social norm by using an optical illusion on participants. He asked individuals how far the light appeared to move. Each estimate was stable but varied between others. Participants were then put into groups of 3 to converge to a group norm. Participants also stuck to these groups in later situations.

In ambigous situations, participants look to each other for guidence and this is informational social influence.

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Why do people obey?

Agentic shift - A person who does something because they have been told to. This means that the controller would be responsible for their client until the job has been completed. They act on behalf on someone else.

Buffters - A person could hurt another person but they do not see the damage they are causing. The participant is protected visually and therefore is likely to cause more damage than necessary. This increases the levels of conformity.

Legitimate authority - We trust authority as we think they are better than us and have a higher status. We learn to respect authority during socialisation.

Gradual commitment - The foot in the door effect. Once we have started something it is more difficult to stop. 

Personality factors - Authoritarians must always stay in control of situations and psychopaths behave abnormally.

Contractual obligation - If a person has agreed to something, they feel they must do it. During Milgram, four prompts were given to prevent participants from backing out.

Altering the meaning of the situation - Colateral damage. An accident for example, innocent people dying in a bomb attack.

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Resisting pressures to conform.

Desire for individualisation. Our desire to be unique and different from everyone else. Synder and Fromkin condocted a study where some groups were 'common' and others were 'individual'. The 'commons' were less likely to conform when a conformity test was conducted at the end of the study. Cultural considerations should be made for this study. Individualistic and collectivistic people need to be considered. Lab experiment. Lied to participants but they were fully debriefed which means that no psychological harm was inflicted. 

Prior commitment. Once people publically declare an opinion, they are much less likely to change and if they never declared it. Acsh conducted a study where participants were asked a question. They were asked if they would like to change their answer but all participants answered no. This supports the explanation because out of all participants none changed their answer after declaring it publically.

Desire to maintain control. Most want to feel  they have control over their lives. Burgers study showed that people with a high need for personal control are more likely to resist conformity pressures than those who have a lower need. A study showed that people who achieved high scores on the 'desirability of control' scale were irritated by attempted help more than those who were lower on the scale. This supports the explanation because when the person for a high need for control was given hints they were felt they were being told what to do and resisted to maintain control.

Time to think and find social support. Zimbardo advises us to be mindful of situational demands, engage critical thinking and avoid being an automatic pilot. Aronson found one of the best ways to stop being swayed by inappropriate norms is to take time to realise actions and become aware of the normative social influence which is a necessary step to resistance. The fear of rejection or ridicule stops us from rejecting comformity.

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Resisting pressures to obey authority.

Feeling responsible and empathetic. In Milgrams study, participants disobeyed the experimenter and refused to continue in the experiment. One participant said in the follow up study that she had too much pain from growing up in Nazi Germany. According to Milgram, triggering painful memories awakened her from an agentic state. She felt responsible for their pain.

Disobedient models. Exposure to the actions of disobedience for example seeing others refusing to obey to authority encourages disobedience. When confederate participants refused to continue shocking, only 10% of participants in Milgrams experiment continued.

Reactance. This may occur when we want to protect our sense of freedom. Once a person voices their opinion, others may rebel against authority. Attempts to restrict freedom can cause people to rebel against authority and do the opposite of what they are told to do.

Time for discussion. If people are given time to share information and discuss their decisions they will become disobedient. A study conducted by Gamson et al, participants made a video and signed statements that could be used in court. Participants who worked in groups became more suspicious.

Questionning motives and status of authority. Questionning the motives, legitimacy and expertise of authority figures has been proposed as a way to prevent automatic obedience. If Milgrams study was transfered to a back street office, the levels of obedience would drop. The lack of prestigous surroundings made it easier for participants to question the legitimacy of the experimenter.

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Influence of individual differences on independent

Moral reasoning - Those who use higher processes of cognitive development in their moral reasoning are more able to resist pressures to obey. Kohlberg showed those with higher stages of moral reasoning are more likely to resist authority and therefore disobey. However, other research shows that there is not an exact correspondence between moral actions and reasoning. The power of the situation can overwhelm moral reasoning.

Locus of control - There are individual differences in peoples beliefs about what controls events in their lives. Those with an internal locus believe they are in control of their actions and destiny. Those with an external locus believes that life happens and there is little they can do about it. Holland investigated whether this relationship existed. He found no relationship between scores on locus of control and levels of obedience. However, Blass has reanalysed the data from Hollands investigation by using more sophisticated statistical techniques. He found those with internal locus were more resistant for pressures to obey especially if they felt manipulated. 

Confidence - Higher levels of confidence in ones own abilities tend to enable a person to resist pressures to obey. One factor that is thought to have influenced the results of Perrin and Spencers study was the nature of the students who participated were math, science and engineering courses where the skills enabled them to reject judgments in a task which were questionable. However, Ash discovered that some participants who lacked confidence nevertheless resisted pressures to conform.

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Gender differences - Milgram reported that there was no difference in the levels of obedience demonstrated by men and women. He ran one study using 40 women and found 65% were obedient. Blass reviewed nine methodological replications of Milgrams procedure using male and female participants and found that eight of the nine studies showed no difference in gender and the consistency of this finding is notable as the studys were conducted in different countries with male and female researchers. Most research investigating gender differences looked at looked at different levels of conformity rather than obedience. Typically females appeared to be less independent than males. However, such findings can be explained in terms of conformity tasks which women typically found unfamiliar. 

Culture: time and place - People from individualistic cultures are more likely to demonstrate independent behaviour. Smith and Bond reviewed 31 conformity studys and concluded that people from individualistic backgrounds were more likely to show individual behaviour. Also, Blass conducted two corellational analysises using obedience outcomes and found no relationship between where a study was conducted and levels of obedience.

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What is social change?

An alteration in the social order of a society.

For example, divorce used to be frowned upon but now most couples eventually divorce. Combined with later marriages, this means that less people are married which is a social change.

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Implications from research on conformity and obedi

Educating nurses - They now have increased education and informed decisions.

The enlightenment effect - It causes an increased knowledge and awareness like in Milgram's experiment.

The foot in the door technique - e.g Having a contract on a mobile phone or bidding on a auction. Sales people use this to get more money out of people. 

Increasing empathy - The understanding of feelings for example the actors screaming in Milgram's experiment or charity adverts.

Implications for ethics - We all need to follow the ethical guidlines and be responsible for the groups during an experiment.

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Benefits of minority dissent.

Flexibility and innovation. 

According to Nemeth, a minority influence lies in its ability to stimulate thought so that over time, people may be converted for good or ill to new ways of thinking and behaving.

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Implications from research on minority influence.

Moscovici - Consistent minority influence causes 8% change, inconsistent minority influence causes 1% change, no minority influence causes 0.25% change. This shows that minority influence makes a difference.

Behavioural styles of influential minorities

Consistency - A person/minority must maintain the same views. A single factor must be maintained during minority influence. 

Not dogmatic - They have the same argument but word it in a different way.

Why do people yield to minority influence?

Group membership - We are influenced by the 'in group' who are popular and we want to be then.

The dissociation model - The majority takes ideas from the minority and then leaves them behind. This causes social cryptoamnesia which means we forget where it comes from.

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Obedience is the result of social influence when somebody acts in response to a direct order from an authority figure.


Aim - To test whether people would inflict harm on another because of an authoritarian pressure

Procedure - Participants were told that they were punishing people who gave wrong answers and then helps them to remember. As they gave more wrong answers, the level of shock would be heightened. Participants watched the actor being strapped to the chair with electrodes before the experiment began. 

Findings - All participants shocked the actor with at least 300 volts. 65% went to the end of the generator which administered 450 volts. Most participants wanted to stop but the researcher prompted them to continue.

Conclusion - Most people will obey orders which are against their conscience. This is similar to what happened in Germany because soldiers were told to torture and kill innocent people even though they did  not necessarily want to.

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Milgram evaluation. Method

It is a lab experiment so the environment was artificial. The study had high levels of control and can be replicated. However it has low ecological validity and therefore hard to generalise.

Hoffling did the same experiment as Milgram but conducted it in a real life situation. An anonymous doctor asks a nurse to prescribe an overdose of an unknown drug which is against the rules. 21 out of 22 began to administer the drug.

Rank and Jacobson found that there are flaws with Hofflings adaptation. In real life situations, the nurse would recognise the drug and would be able to confer with other nurses. Only 2 out of 18 nurses began to administer the drug.

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Baumrind believed that Milgram had insufficient respect for participants, he did not protect them from psychological harm and it lacked the use of formal consent. Participants may have been psychologically harmed because they genuinely thought that they were harming people. Participants may have felt stupid because they were lied to and could have potentially killed someone. Houses are linked to 230 volts and participants were shocking at nearly double this. Faith would have been lost in psychologists because they deceived participants and there was a lack of informed consent. The participants could have also been potentially psychologically harmed if Milgram applicated findings incorrectly. 

Darley argued converted innocent people to evil and the point of power began at this conversion. This could be related to the Holocaust and concentration camps. Milgram defended himself by stating he did not brainwash his participants. He allowed them to act how they thought was right and gave them the right to withdraw. Milgram carefully debriefed participants so they knew the true meaning of the experiment and showed socially desirable behaviour.

Zimbardo defended Milgram by arguing that people were more shocked about the findings and therefore they blame the experiment. One of the positive outcomes that Milgram found was that everyone conforms, even in ethically incorrect situations. 

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Real life application

Milgrams experiment is like World War two where soldiers did atrocious acts like turning on gas chambers because they were told that Jews were evil and had to be killed.

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Gender - Milgram only used men in his experiments and more women needs to be carried out on women and conformity.

Culture - The English are more likely to be obedient than Australians because we learn to obey and conform during socialisation and these levels vary according to cultures.

Individual differences.

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Theoretical link.

Psychopathology thesis which is unusual for normal cultures versus normality thesis which is when normal people can do ethically and morally wrong things when pushed.

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