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  • Created on: 29-01-13 17:03

Social influence-Conformity

Conformity - the tendency to change behaviour (what we do) and attitude (what we say) in response to the influence of others or social pressure. This can be real or imagined. "Yielding to group pressure"- Crutchfield

Three types of conformity (Kelman) :-

  • Compliance- publicly conforming to others behaviours/ views but privately maintaining one's own views.
  • Identification- publically and privately conforming to others behaviours/ views because you value membership of the group. This may be temporary and not maintained once leaving the group.
  • Internalisation/ conversion- publically and privately changing views to fit others. New attitudes/ behaviours become part of your value system.
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Conformity to majority influence- Compliance (Asch

To investigate what would happen to conformity if participants were exposed to an unambiguous situation (no doubt as to the correct answer).


  • Students were told the study was to investigate the perception of line length (misinformed).
  • Opportunity sample of 50 American male students.
  • 7 Students sat around a table, 6 were confederates/ stooges and 1 was a participant (sat second to last).
  • Each student asked to judge the length of the line by saying which out of 3 comparison lines was equal to it.
  • On crucial/ critical trials (12 out of 18) the confederates/ stooges purposely gave the same wrong answers.


  • 37% -Overall conformity rate (number of trials the participant gave the same wrong answer).
  • 25%-Completely independent.
  • 5%-Always conformed.
  • 0.7%- Conformed in control trial.
  • In debreifing participants claimed they conformed due to normative social influence and informational social influence.

Even when the answer was obvious, there is strong group pressure to conform, especially if the group is a unanimous majority

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Asch evaluation


  • Shows the ease with which people conform even in unambiguous situations.
  • Lab experiment so highly controlled (social pressure created by number of people present)
  • Ecological validity as participants show tension and anxiety as it appears real to them (Robson).


  • Lab experiment so low ecological validity (students amongst strangers whereas in real life conformity usually takes place with people whom are in groups they already know- may influence conformity rate).
  • Deception and harm.
  • Audrocentric (only american male) so cannot be generalised as lacks population and cross cultural validity.
  • Study carried out in collectivist cultures had higher conformity rates (Fiji 58%), study carried out in individualistic cultures had lowe conformity (Belgium 12%)- Smith and Bond meta analysis.
  • Study conducted in 1952 America during McCarthyism (more conformist/ conservative), other study conducted in 1981 found conformity to be almost non-existent (Perrin and Spencer).
  • Acsh study was an "unpredictable phenomenon, not a stable tendency of human behaviour"-Lalancette.

Asch study variations:-

  • 1 confederate and 1 participant- 3%
  • 3 confederates and 1 participant- 33%
  • >15 confederates and 1 participant- lower %
  • 1 confederate agreed with participant- 0%
  • Difficult task- increased %
  • Write down answers- decreased %

Conformity was highest % (optimum) with 3-5 confederates.

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Explanations of why people conform- dual process d

Following Acsh study 2 reasons were suggested:-

  • Normative social influence- compliance (public behaviour change to fit group but private behaviour is unchanged) due to a stong desire to be liked/ accepted and not be ridiculed by the group.
  • Informational social influence- internalisation (genuine, longlasting change of public and private view to groups) and identification (shortlived changing behaviour to group because you value group membership)  due to desire to be right and accurate, especially in ambiguous situations.
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Dual process dependency theory evaluation


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Eplanations of why people conform- social identity

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Social identity theory evaluation


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Internalisation- Calling blue slides green (Moscov

To investigate minority influence on majority and to what extent consistency influences conformity.


  • 6 females (2 confederates and 4 participants) asked to judge colour of 36 slides.
  • All slides were blue but adding filters varied brightness.
  • 2 confederates called all slides green (consistent condition).
  • 2 confederates called 24 out of 36 slides green (inconsistent condition).


  • 8.4%- always conformed (slides called green by participants) in consistent condition
  • 32%- conformed in consistent condition.
  • 1.3%- conformed in inconsistent condition.

Minority can influence majority and consistency can determine how influencial minority are.

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Calling blue slides green study evaluation


  • Clark study also found information given by minority can be influencial.
    • Clark conducted research using a film (the 12 angry men), Participants were asked to play the role of jurors and make a decision as to the innocence or guilt of a man in the film. Clark found that minority could be influencial but only if they provided counter evidence to support them. Clark found a ceiling of influence- 7 detectors had no more influence than 4.


  • Only 5% of real jury cases did the initial minority prevail and minority had to consist of atleast 3 members (Kalven and Zeisel).
  • Lab experiment so lacks ecological validity and mundane realism.
  • Task is ambiguous (colours too similar) so results are impacted as participants are unsure of their perception and conform (informational social influence).
  • Deception and stress (harm).
  • Endrocentric (only women), women are said to be more likely to conform than men therefore this may impact results.
  • artificial task and minority group was not a "real" group as in real life situations the group would know each other.
  • In the Clark study costs of errors are much less consequencial than in real life jury cases and it is therefore questionable how far results can be generalised.
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