Psychology Unit 2 - Social Influence

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Change in beliefs in response to real/imaginesdgroup pressure. Influence of majority over minority.

Sherif- autokinetic effect: Pps taken individually into dark room and asked to focus on single spot of light. Asked to estimate how far the light moved and what direction. Ambigious task as light didn't move at all. The estimates of distance and direction varied dramatically.

Pps returned a week later to repeat the same task, but in groups of 3. Found that individuals changed their views and converged/agreed on similar answers, forming a 'group norm'.

  • (+/-) Lab study. Control of variables, replicable. Lacks mundane realism. Artificial- eco. validity.
  • (+) Can establish cause and effect.
  • (-) Culture bias
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Conformity cont. Asch

How would people behave when confronted with majority who are plainly wrong?

123 male undergraduate students shown a series of lines in groups of 7-9, sat around a table. In each group there was one naive pp (seated 2nd to last) and the rest (majority) were conferderates who gave the wrong answer on 12/18 trials.

On 12 critical trials, 37 % conformed. 5% conformed on every critical trial. On 18 trials, 75% of people conformed at least once. 25% remained independent. Concluding this is support for compliance: although pps knew the answer was wrong, they still conformed, influenced by majoirty.

  • (+/-) Lab experiment
  • (-) Lacks validity as conformity usually happens with friends as opposed to strangers
  • (-) Outdated (1956)- social change may have altered the nature of majority influences over the years. May not be suitable to generalise 50 years later.
  • (-) Deception and Informed consent - the experiment pps thought they were doing wasn't real, could lead to distress
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COMPLIANCE: Publicly conforming to the behaviour or view of others but privately maintaining one's own views. Supported by Asch.

INTERNALISATION: A true change of private views to match those of the group. What distinguishes this type of conformity is that the new attitudes and behaviours have become part of one's value system and are not dependent on the presence of the group.


NORMATIVE SOCIAL INFLUENCE: Person conforms because of their need to be accepted by and belong to the group. May be because belonging to the group is rewarding and the group has the power to punish or even exclude those who don't fit in. May personally and privately continue to disagree but conform on the surface. Supported by Asch.

INFORMATIONAL SOCIAL INFLUENCE: In many social situations, people may be unsure of how to behave, or unclear as to what they think or feel about an issue. In this case they may conform as they don't know what to do or say. The drive for conformity is the desire to be right. If the majority are acting in a particular way then conformity may be a sensible decision. If they are right, the conformer will be too, if not, at least they don't stand out.  Supported by Sherif.

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Moscovici: 172 females with good eyesight. 6 pps at a time, asked to estimate the colour of 36 slides. All slides were blue, differing in brightness. 2/6 pps were confederates.                               Consistent condition: the two accomplices called the slides green in every trial.                              Inconsistent condition: the two accomplices called the slides green 24 times and blue 12 times.

Overall, pps agreed with the minority on 8.4% of the trials. 32% of pps in the consistent condition reported a green slide at least once. Pps in the inconsistent called the slides green in only 1.3% of trials. Minorities must be confident, consistent and persuasive to exert an influence.

  • (+) All pps given an eyetest at the beginning
  • (+/-) Lab study
  • (-) Gender bias
  • (-) Ethical issues- deception
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Minority Influence cont. Wood et al

Wood et al: Meta-analysis of 97 studies of minority influence. Majority group members tended to avoid aligning themselves with a deviant minority because they do not want to be viewed as a deviant themselves. As a result, group members were more likely to admit being influenced by the minority privately. Concluding that minorities who were perceived as being especially consistent in their positions were particularly influential.

  • (+) Larger pool of pps
  • (-) Possible investigator effects in some of the studies
  • (-) Individual methodology of each study could be different- hard to make comparisons
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Milgram: recruited subjects via newspaper advert. Those responding would be paid $4.50. Pps were men aged 20-50, coming from all educational backgrounds. In pairs, one man is given a slip of paper telling him he is the 'teacher', the other is the 'learner'. They are told the experiment is to see the effects of punishment on learning.

The teacher reads out sets of word pairs which he must teach the learner e.g. blue hat, red door. Then after 13 pairs, he says one of the words and if the learner next door says the wrong matching word, they are given an electric shock. Each time the learner gets it wrong, the teacher has to increase the shock by 15v. After some time the learner starts shouting. At 180v he complained of a weak heart. At 300v, he banged on the wall and demanded to leave. At 315v he became silent.

Some pps became concerned. At this point, many people indicated their desire to stop and check on the learner. Many paused at 135v and began to question the purpose of the experiment. If at anytime, the teacher said he wants to stop, the experimenter would give one of the following prods: 1) Please continue. 2) The experiment requires you to continue, please go on. 3) It is essential that you continue. And finally 4) You have no choice, you must continue.

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Results and Evaluation of Milgram

All pps went to 300v. 65% administered the maximum shock of 450v. 35% managed to defy pressure from the experimenter.

Conclusion: ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an aythority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being. Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up. Obey parents, teachers, anyone in authority, etc.

  • (+/-) Lab experiment
  • (+/-) Volunteer sample -similar personalities responding
  • (-) Gender bias
  • (-) Ethical issues: Deception- unaware that learner was confederate. Failed to get fully informed consent. Protection of pps not fulfilled. Right to withdraw was difficult. However he did debrief them afterwards and had a follow up period of time to ensure that they came to know harm.
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SETTING OF EXPERIMENT:                                                                                                         Milgram moved the experiment from Yale Uni to a seedy office above a shop. There was a significant drop in obedience. 48% continued to 450v. Conclusion: prestige of Yale contributed to high levels of obedience.

REDUCING POWER OF EXPERIMENTER:                                                                                   Removed experimenter from room, had to give instructions over phone. Pps were able to resist authority of experimenter. Only 20% went to 450v.                                                                          Pps worked in pairs to administer shocks. One pp was confederate and refused to administer shocks. Only 10% went to full 450v.

INCREASING AWARENESS OF VICTIMS SUFFERING:                                                              Altered proximity of teacher and learner by bringing the learner into the same room as teacher. Obedience dropped.                                                                                                                  Teacher and learner were in same room and in order for learner to receive shocks he had to place his hand voluntarily on shock plate. When he refused to do this. the teacher was instructed to force his hand down. 30% still continued to 450v.

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LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY: How much power does the person giving the instruction have?       Most societies are hieratchical; some members of the group have legitimate power to give orders and intructions to those beneath them. Socialisation in school and the family teaches us that we are more acceptable if we obey those who have authority over us.

  • AO2: Obedience was much higher when the setting of the experiment was in Yale Uni, a prestigious establishment. Participants who carried out the experiment at the seedy office in New York were less obedient as the power of the authority figure was diminished by the setting of the experiment outside the academic context. The setting influences the degree of trust.
  • AO2: Hofling et al- 21 out of 22 nurses were willing to carry out an instruction by the unknown 'Dr Smith'. This can be explained by the degree of power and trust invested at that time in hospital doctors.
  • AO2: Lesar et al- Many drug errors can be explained by the tendency of nurses to obey doctors, even when the orders given are extremely dubious.
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Explanations of Obedience cont.

AUTHORITY FIGURE TAKES RESPONSIBILITY:                                                                              In order for an authority figure to be obeyed it is important that they are prepared to take the responsibility for their order and for their subordinates' actions. In an agentic state, the person sees themselves as the agent/subordinate of others. They carry out their orders but do not feel personally responsible for the actions they take.

  • AO2: Many of his pps had serious reservations about continuing to administer shocks and asked the experimenter if they were personally responsible. When pps were told that the full responsibility was the experimenter's, they continued to obey. If the experimenter had replied that the pps were personally responsible, it is likely that the outcome of this experiment would have been very different.
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Explanations continued.

GRADUATED COMMITMENT:                                                                                                       When someone gets locked into obedience due to the small steps. Starting with a small request and gradually increasing them is known as the 'foot in door' technique and is often used in sales.   Smith & Mackie have argued that similar processes take place in real-life crimes of obedience in which people are led in gradual stages from the acceptable to the unthinkable.     

  • AO2: By committing the volts in very small stages Milgram established a basis for obedience, which made it very difficult for his participants to disobey.

AUTHORTARIAN PERSONALITY:                                                                                             Adorno argued that the key to understanding extreme obedience lay in early childhood experiences where personality is formed. The authortarian personality is hostile, has rigid morals and hates challenges to authority or deviation from normal social behaviour. He argued that people with an 'authortarian personality' have a tendency to be extremely obedient.

  • AO2: Elms and Milgram interviewed a sub-sample of pps in Milgram's first 4 experiments. Those that were fully obedient (went to 450v) scored higher on tests of authortarianism and lower on scales of social responsibility than those who defied the experimenter.
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SITUATIONAL FACTORS: Some psychologists have considered the situational factors that lead people to disobey- these are features of a setting or environment which influence obedience.

Gamson, Fireman and Rytina: Groups of 9 met a consultant from a fictional human relations company. Consultant explained the company was conducting research for an oil company taking legal action against a petrol station manager. Company argued the manager was sacked due to his lifestyle. The manager argued it was because he spoke out on local TV about high petrol prices. Pps took part in a filmed group discussion about the sacking. Pps own views were irrelevant and the camera man stopped filming and instructed pps to argue in favour of the oil company a number of times. Pps were asked to sign a consent form to allow film to be used in court. 32 out of 33 groups rebelled during discussion. 25/33 refused to sign form. 9 groups threatened legal action. In realistic situations where groups of people are ordered to behave against their moral judgement, they're less likely to comply because they have support of others.

(+) High level of realism- situation was unusual but pps behaviour was likely free of damand characteristics as they were unaware of study. (-) Difficult to separate many factors that led to disobedience. (-) Ethical issues.

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Explanation of Disobedience cont.


Crutchfield: argued that conformers tended to have lower self esteem than non-conformers. Conformers tended to be less intelligent and had a higher need for social approval. Non-conformers tended to be more self-confident with leadership abilities.

  • (-) Outdated (1955)

Oliner & Oliner: Interview method to study two groups of non-Jewish people who had lived through the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. They compared 406 people who had protected and rescued Jews with 126 who had not done this. They found that 'rescuers' scored higher on measures of social responsibility and had scores demonstrating an internal locus of control.

  • (+) Qualatative data
  • (-) Social desirability
  • (-) Culture bias
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Personality cont.

LOCUS OF CONTROL:                                                                                                               Refers to a person's perception of personal control over their own behaviour. People with a high internal locus of control believe they can influence events in their life. Those with an external locus of control believe that outside factors such as luck or fate influence what happened in their life. High internals are less likely to rely on opinions of others, more achievement orientated and are better able to resist intimidation from others whereas externals are more likely to conform and obey.

Anderson & Schneider: Found that group members possessing an internal locus of control were more likely to emerge as leaders in their groups.

Twenge et al: Found that young Americans increasingly believe that their lives are controlled by outside forces rather than their own behaviour. In the studies used in this meta analysis, researchers found that locus of control scores had become substantially more external in student and child samples between 1960 and 2002. It was found that externality was correlated with poor school achievement, decreased self control and depression.                                                            (-) Difficult to compare as all methodologies are different                                                                   (-) Can't establish cause and effect                                                                                                      (-) Culture bias

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Personality cont 2


Linz & Semykina: Used servey data collected from over 2600 Russian employees between 2000 and 2003. They found significant gender differences with men being more likely to exhibit an internal locus of control and a need for challenge with women more likely to exhibit an external locus of control and a need for affiliation.

  • (+) Large sample
  • (-) Culture bias
  • (-) Quick and efficient way to gain data
  • (-) Social desirability
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  • SOCIAL CHANGE OCCURS: When a majority influences a minority because normative and informational social influence produce compliance.
  • When a minority influences a majority. It is a slow process because members of the majority have to be convinced to change the way they think about something- internalisation.
  • When the minority is: (as found by Moscovici), Consistent- this gives the majority a signal that the minority is committed to their position, making the minority harder to ignore. Confident- this sends a message to the majority that the minority position is a serious one that demands attention. Persuasive- the minority position must be convincing enough to persuade people to defect from the majority.
  • An individual is independent because the minority resists pressures to conform and/or obey. It has been found that people with an internal locus of control (Rotter) are more likely to act independently because they believe they have control over what happens to them. People who resist pressures to obey might have a personality that was low in authortarianist (Adorno)
  • Because of the snowball effect- some members of the gorup start to agree with the minority, gradually the minority then turns to the majority.
  • Social cryptoamnesia- Most of the time it is the idea that it is remembered rather than the person who started the movement e.g. Rosa Parks- remember to treat people equally, don't always remember who instigated the change. Because minority influence takes a while.
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