Social psychology

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Types of conformity

  • Conformity- when the behaviuor of an individual or small group is influenced by a larger more dominant group. 

Two types of Conformity:

  • Compliance- Going along with the majority, even if you don't believe their views. You do this to appear normal- this is normative social influence. 
  • Internalisation- following the majority, believing in their views. You may look to others on the correct way to act- this is informative social influence.
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Asch supports normative social influence-

Method: lab experiment- independent groups design. Groups of 8- 1 real participant- 7 confederates. Asked to match standard line with 3 option lines- out loud- real participant always went last or second to last.18 trials- in 12 all confederates gave wrong answer. Also a control group doing it in isolation.

Results: control group 0.7% gave wrong answer- 37% gave wrong answer in the 12 trials- 75% gave wrong answer at least once.

Conclusion: normative social influence can make people change their behaviour and view, even when they don't believe in them.

Evaluation: +lab- good control of variables- minimises effects of extraneous variables- easily replicable

- lacks ecological validity- deceived- demand characteristics

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Sherif supported the effects of informative social influence-

Method: lab experiment with repeated measures design. Visual illusion- autokinetic effect- stationary spot of light in a dark room appears to move. Falsely told the light would move. Asked to estimate how far it moved. 1st individuals made repeated estimates- 2nd put in groups of 3 asked to estimate with others present- 3rd retested individually.

Results: 1st developed own estimates- varied widely- 2nd answers became more alike- 3rd estimates were closer to 2nd than 1st. 

Conclusion: when a group norm is developed it can later influence a persons original mindset. 

Evaluation: + lab- control of variables- cause and effect possible to establish- easily replicated.

- lacks ecological validity- limited sample (males) difficult to generalise- deception.

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Zimbado showed how people conformed to assigned roles

Method: male students recruited- randomly assigned to prisoner or guard- behaviour observed- used appropriate costumes and roles in a prison.

Results: at the start guards tried to be authorative but prisoners resisted. Guards then gave nastier punishments and prisoners because more passive and authorative. Experiment ended early due to some prisoners becoming too distressed. 

Conclusion: social role can influence our behaviour as roles were adopted quickly.

Evaluation: + controlled observation- control of variables

can't generalise to real-life- ethics- observer bias- does not account individual differences 

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Factors affecting conformity

Group size: bigger the majority the more influential. Asch did his study with 2 confedereates and conformity decrease to 14%- with 3 it was 32% but little change after this.

Social support: if there're others who believe your view and express it conformity will drop. Asch did his study with a supporter in the group- conformity rate fell to 5.5%.

Confidence and expertise: less confident people are more likely to conform because they are not able to resist group pressure, Perrin and Spencer did Asch's study with engineering students and conformity rates were much lower, this could have been because they had more confidence in their desicions. 

Gender: females tend to conform more than men becuase of social roles. 

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Minority influence

Sometimes small minorities can change the views of the majority. The can be change through drawing attention to the topic, role of conflict, consistency and the augmentation process (risks involved)

Moscovici et al researched minority influence.

Method: lab experiment- 192 women- groups of 6- juged colour of 36 slides. All slides were blue, but brightness varied. 2/6 were confederates. In one condition confederates called all slides green, in the other the called 24 slides green and 12 blue. Control group with no confederates was also used. 

Results: control group called slides green 0.25%. In the consistent condition 8.4% adopted the minority and called them green and 32% called results green at least once. In the inconsistent group participants calles slides green 1.25% of the time. 

Conclusion: views appeared to change when views were consistent. 

Evaluation: + used control group 

-lab- lacks ecological validity- ungeneralisable.

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Milgram researched obedience to authority. Obedience involves performing an action under the orders of an authority figure.

Method: lab experiment- Yale- 40 men volunteers- for a learning and memory test- recieved payment- experimenter wore grey coat. Each participant got drawn as the teacher and the learner was a confederate. Participant saw learner get stapped to chair and connected to shocker, in the next room. Shocks ranged from 15V (slight shock) to 450V (***), did not actually get shocked. Teacher taught learner word-pairs over intercom, if they got it wrong participant had to administer an increasing level of shock. Learner began to scream and asked to be let out upto 330V then he made no further noise. If there was hesitation experimenter gave prompts to continue the experiment. Debriefing was given. 

Results: 26 (65%) gave 450V and none stopped before 300V. Signs of stress were seen. 

Conclusion: Normal people will obey orders to hurt someone else, even against their conscience. 

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  • Males and females both scored 65%
  • Run in seedy offices scored 48%
  • Learner in the same room as participant 40%
  • Experimeter giving orders over the phone in a different room score 23%
  • Confederates refuse to give shock 10%
  • Other participants gave shock instead 92.5%

Evaluation: + lab- high levels of control- easily replicable- results are reliable 

- deception- may have been demand characteristics or social desirability biased- participants got stressed- not told about the right to withdraw 

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Factors affecting obedience and why people obey

Factors affecting obedience:

  • Presence of allies: can make it easier to resist.
  • Proximity of victims: closer to victims obedience reduced.
  • Proximity of authority: when authority was further away obedience reduced. 

Why people obey:

  • Agentic state- Milgram's agency theory states when we feel we're acting out the wishes of another person, we feel less responsible for our actions. Shown through the use of prompts. The agentic shift is when people begin to think for themselves (autonomus state) but when they begin to obey they shift to an agentic state.
  • Gradual commitment- agreeing to something slightly, making it harder to refuse. Shocks started from 15V results were likely to be different if they started at 450V. 
  • Justified authorities- people who are given the right to tell us what to do makes us obey them more. 
  • Buffers- things that protect us from the consequences of our actions. Participants more obedient when they could not see or hear learner. 
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Resisting pressure to obey authority

Situation- people are more likely to resist obedience if others are present- the don't have to take full responsability for rebelling.

Individual differences- people are more able to resist an order if they have moral reasoning. (One of Milgram's participant refused to give any amount of shock as she had been in WW2)- may have internal locus of control or still in agentic state

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Research into conformity and obedience

Milgram provided explanations to why people obeyed and found people deffered responsability of their actions to an authority figure. This helps to explain events such as the holocaust. Hofling et al also provided evidence for this with the nurses giving drugs to patients unprofessionally. 

Zimbado looked at the effects of deindividuation (when people loss their personal identity)

Group pressure can relate to real life situations such as jurys. 

Research has many ethical issues: cost/ benefit has to be analysed. A lot of Milgram's participants said they were pleased to have taken part.

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Locus of control

Personality: locus of control (Rotter questionaire)-

  • Internal locus of control: belief events happen due to your own actions or behaviour. More likely to exhibit independant behaviour.
  • External locus of control: belief events are caused by external factors e.g. luck. More likely to conform.
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