Psychology PSYA2 - social influence

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Conformity to Majority

Asch (1956) - Asked 123 male American Undergraduates to state which of the 3 lines matched the standard line. Critical trial; confederates gave the wrong answers, conformity was 36.8%. Control trial; confederates gave the right answers, conformity was 75%. P's conformed due to distortion of action, perception and judgement.

Variations include:

  • Difficulty of task. Levels of conformity increased as making the difference in line lengths smaller, the task became harder.
  • Size of majority. If theres a majority of 1 or 2, conformity is low. Majority of 3 result in 30% conformity but further increase makes no difference.
  • Unanimity of majority. Confederates giving the right answer ment p's felt supported so conformity dropped from 32% to 5.5%.
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... evaluation

A weakness of Asch's study is that is lacks validity. The task its self was insignificant and answering aloud ment ps were vulnerable to social pressure therefore, they conformed as to not feel uncomfortable.

A strength is that there are real world applications. Tanford and Penrod found that pressure to conform to the majority is high in juries as in over 95% of cases, the first vote determines the outcome. This suggests that conformity pressure is high in jurie decission making.

A weakness of Asc's study is that it was affected by McCarthism. The study was conducted during a time of strong anticommunist feeling in America. Individuals were scared to be different which resulted in more conformity.

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Conformity to minority

Moscovici (1969) who's aim was to see if consitency helps minority influence. 32 groups of 6 women (4 of which are ps) had to estimate the colour of 36 slides of blue in different shades. Condition A: confederates consistently called green so conformity was 8.4%. Condition B: confederates were inconsistent so conformity was 1.2%.

The conversion theory is where an individual is exposed to an argument contradictor to current attitude, this causes conflict. Individuals are then motivated to reduce the conflict, and therefore, examine the argument. As a result, attention is on the message rather than the relationship between them and the majority. This increases the chance of internalisation

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... evaluation

A strenght of Moscovici's study is that it involves the conversion theory. The conversion theory creates conflict and a desire to reduce it, resulting in greater message proccessing. Therefore, individuals are more likly to internalise information.

Results from research into minority influence will have relevance beyond experimental situations however, real worl research suggests that minority influence is rare and therefore, lacks validity.

Nemeth suggests that minority influence research has provided important insight. If minorites are consistent then their viewpoint will prevail, otherwise the influence will decrease.

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Why people conform

Informational Social Influence is the result of wanting to be right. We believe others to be right, so we change our views and behaviour, this is an example of internalisation. This is likely to occur when the situation is ambiguous, a crisis or we believe that they're experts.

Normative social influence is the need to be liked. We have a fundamental need for social companionship and a fear of rejection menaing that to go against the majority is difficult as individuals will feel uncomfortable deviating from that point of view.

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Garaneau and Cillessen showed how groups with low quality interpersonal friendships could be manipulated by a bully so victimisation of another becomes a common goal. This created pressure on others to conform. Illustrating normative social influence.

Normative social influence can change behaviour in a positive way. Schults gathered data from 132 hotels where rooms were assigned to either a experimental (door hanger with experimental benifits of refusing towels and informed) or a control (foor hanger only) condition. It was found that recieving a message with normative information reduced the need for fresh towels by 25%.

The role of informational social influence in political opinion could be influenced by the knowledge of others reactions. Fein showed how during a debate there was a shift in judgement when p's could see other p's reactions. Demonstrating how informational influence has power in shaping opinion.

The role of informational social influence has been less extensively studied but exposure to others beliefs have been seen to influence social stereotypes. Wittenbrik and Henly found that p's exposed to negative comparison information about African Americans resulted in negative beliefs about black individuals. This shows how majority influences social stereotypes.

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Obedience to Authority

Milgram (1963) conducted a study to find out if ordinary Americans would obey an order from a person in authority to inflict pain on another. 40 male volunteers paid $4.50 at Yale. P's = teachers, confeds = learners. )asked to memorise pairs of words, shocks given for wrong answers). Shocks increased by 15 volts to 450 volts. Hesitation met with encouragement. All p's went to 300, 65% went to end.

Variations include:

  • Proximity of victim - obedience drops when in close proximity as they can see the consequences
  • Proximity of authority figure - obedience is high as they feel constantly monitored
  • Presence of allies - if others defy then you defy (you feel supported)
  • Increased teacher discretion - allowing p's to chose the levels of shocks given results in defiance as they may choos to only use the low levels
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... evaluation

Obedience research could result in psychological damage. Baumrina claimed that p's were placed under great emotional strain. However, Milgram didn't know it would create such high levels of distress. He did however talk to p's after and a year later and 84% were glad they'd done it.

A weakness of Milgram's study is that p's were decieved. However, if p's knew the true aims then the experiment would have been meaningless. Furthermore, p's felt as though they had learnt something or personal importance.

A problem with obedience research is that it lacks realism. Orne and Holland claim that p's in psychological studies distrust experimenters as they know the true purpose may be disguised, leading p's to take part as they believe they aren't inflicting pain. However, post experiment inverviews suggests the majority of p's thought they were giving real shocks.

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Why people Obey

Gradual Commitment is because p's have already given low shocks it becomes harder to resist the experimenter ans increase the shocks. P's become committed, so it's harder to change their mind.

Agentic Shift is when 'a person acts as an agent carrying out the wishes of someone else'. When placed in an authority hierachy Milgram claims we shift from an autonomous state to an agentic state.

Role of Buffers as in Milgram's study as the student and teacher were in seperate rooms protecting the teacher from seeing the consequences of the shocks.

Justifying obedience in Milgram's study was done as the role of giving shcoks was justified as it was said science wants to improve peoples memory through rewars and punishment. More people were willing to give up their freedom of action for a justifiable cause.

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... evaluation

Milgram's explanation is oversimplified as it ignors many other factors when looking at the Holocaust. Goldhagen identifies anti-semetism (hostility and predudice against jews) as the primary motivation for the actions of those involved rather than obedience. Suggesting there are other reasons aside from obedience.

The agentic shift is an imporant part of Milgram's obedience explanation. However, the Holocaust took place over a longer period of time while Milgram's study took only half an hour. This suggests the agentic shift didn't occur in p's tacking part.

There are a number of negative consequences when using an obedience alibi. The suggestion that war criminals were just obeying orders in distressing to those effected by the Holocaust as it effectively exonerates them from their crime. Suggested by Mandel.

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Independant Behaviour

Resisting Pressure to Conform id the introduction of another dissidant provides social support resulting in a drop in conformity rates. Social support provides an individual with an assessment of reality making it easier and giving an individual more confidence to reject minority influence.

Resisting Pressure to Obey, status is a key factor in resisting obedience for example when Milgram's study was moved from Yale to a downtown office more people resisted.

Locus of control is about the belief about whether our actions are caused by what we do or events out of our control (a persons perception of control over behaviour) Internal - what we do External - external factors.

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... evaluation

Most research into conformity involves physical tasks such as Asch's study, you conform to be liked or right. However, if the task involves moral judgements that cost to an individuals integrity is higher causing individuals to think about their actions. For example, Hornsey found little movement towards the majority when there was moral significance.

Resisting pressure to obey may be due to an individuals moral considerations. Kohlberg gave a set of moral dilemmas to a group of Milgram's volunteers finding that those with moral principles were more defiant. Showing that moral consideration is important.

There is research to suggests we are becoming more external (locus of control). Tweng found that young Americans increasingly believe their lives are controlled by outside forces rather than their behaviour. He suggests that externality is correlated with a decrease in self control and depression.

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Social Change

The minority can bring about social change by being consistent, if the argument is consistently expressed, over time they are more likely to be taken seriously.

Argumentation Principle is if the minority appear willing to suffer for their views they can be more influential.

Conversion theory is when an individual is exposed to conflict. They are then motivated to reduce the conflict so examine the argument meaning attention is on the message. This increases internalisation and the spread of the message.

The snowball effect is when a message known by the minority spreads until it's known by the majority.

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... evaluation

Minority influence doesn't necessarily lead to socail change. Minorities are at a disadvantage as they lack social power and are often seen as diviant which leads to the majorities unwillingness to agree with their views or beliefs. This suggests that there is a potential for social change rather than creating an actual change in society.

The presence of disobedient role models increases levels of defiance. They have an important role as seen in many movements such as the civil rights in the US, including the defiance of Rosa Parks to give up a seat for a white man. Resulting in social change.

An example of destructive obedience in the name of social change would be the Holocaust where Nazi leaders justified what they did by saying they were following orders. This is illustrated in Milgram's study where experimenters would encourage p's if there was a sign of hesitation. This suggests that when placed in a heirachy individuals feel they cannot defy the authority figure.

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There is evidence for the effectiveness of minority influence in bringing about social change. The suffragettes were persistant in their social movement resulting in women being able to vote. The ability to draw attention to the issue creating conflict and showing their willingness to suffer for their views made them more influential. Suggesting the minority can bring about social change.

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