Psychology Unit 2 - Social Influences


Testing Conformity

Conformity Study - Sherif

Aim: To discover the effect on judgement of listening to other people.

Method: Participants were asked to estimate the distance a spot of light moved, while sitting ina dark room. However, the light did not move, but was owing an optical illusion know as the autokinetic effect.

Results: When asked individually, participants gave a variety of answers that differed from eachother, however when ask in groups of three, their answers became very similar until, finally they became very close.

Conclusion: People use other people's opinions to help them form their own judgement in an ambiguous situation.


Asch argued that his study flawed precisely due to the situation being ambiguous.The distance the light had travelled was unknown to the partipants and therefore the study did not demonstrate conformity.

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Testing Conformity

Conformity: Asch

Aim:He wanted to know whether people could be influenced by other people's opinions to give answers they knew to be wrong.

Method: Participants were shown a set of four lines. The participant had to say whether line A,B or C was the same length as the test line. When tested alone the participant rarely made any mistakes. However, the participants had to give answers as part of a group. The rest of the group, who were confederates were instructed to give incorrect answers to some of the tests.

Results: On 32% of the trials, when the group gave the wrong answer, the participant also gave the wrong answer. 74% of the participants,when asked alone gave at least one wrong answer.

Conclusion: The only reason for this error rate was hearing the wrong answers previously given,those whogave incorrect answers told Asch they knew the answer was wrong but did not want to go against the rest of the group. This shows normative social influence.

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Testing Obedience

Obedience: Hofling et al 

Aim: To see if people would follow an unreasonable order in their normal work environment.

Method: 22 nurses were contacted individually by phone. The researcher pretended to be a doctor and instructed each nurse to give a patient twice the maximum dosage of a drug called 'Astrofen'.

Results: 22 nurses were prepared to follow his orders,despite the maximum dosage clearly being marked on the bottle.

Conclusion: Nurses are like to obey the instructions of a doctor even if there may be bad consequences for a patient.


The nurses were not allowed to discuss the command with anyone and the drug 'Astrofen' does not exist, which means this experiment lacks ecological validity.

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Testing Obedience

Obedience: Stanley Milgram

Aim: To see how far people will go in obeying manifestly unreasonable orders.

Method: The participants were told that they were taking part in a memory experiment and that their role would be acting as a teacher to a learner.The learner, who was actually an confederate, was strapped in a chair with electrodes on them. In another room,the participant asked a series of questions and was instructed to issue an electric shock every time the 'learner' gave a wrong answer. The participant was in a room with a man in a lab coat that would act as the authority figure of the situation, encouraging the participant to continue anytime he/she wanted to withdraw with the words, 'the experiment requires you to continue.' The shock increased by 15 volts every time.

Findings: 65% of participants administered the full electric shock.

Conclusion: People are willing to obey quite extraordinary orders if they feel that the person giving them is in a position of authority.


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Testing Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention - Schroeder et al

Aim: To explore different reasons for bystanders not helping.

Method: They studied the findings and conclusions from many previous pieces of research.

Results: They were able to provide an alternative explanation for why bystanders did nothing to help when others were present.

Conclusion: Bystanders are distressed and concerned about victims, but when other people are present, they believe that someone else is more capable of helping the victim or help more easily than themselves.

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Evaluating Conformity and Obedience


Asch Evaluation

- It was conducted in a laboratory and therefore it was a  natural situation, this means that the participants may not have behaved in a natural way. The results might not have been the same as it would have been in an everyday situation, this means it has a low ecological validity.

- On the other hand, laboratory experiments offer alot of control over extraneous variables. Asch was able to alter several factors to see the impact on the rate of conformity.

Stanley Milgram Evaluation

- There is deception as the participants did not know that the person did not actually get the electric shock,as they were supposed to.

- There was a lack of ecological validity because it has taken place in a artificial environment.

- Psychological harm may be caused as people may have felt guilty after the experiment

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